Along the Grapevine


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Savoury Apple Juniper Soup

DSC03243.JPGThis has been a great year for apples – so good in fact that I have heard pleas on the radio for people to do the trees a favour and pick the fruit because the branches are breaking from the weight. The fruit may be smaller than usual because of the horrific drought, but they are more numerous and, even better, sweeter than ever.

The problem is what to do with all those apples. Those I can’t use right away I preserve either by making applesauce, and when freezer space runs out I dehydrate the rest. For the applesauce I cut them in half to make sure the insides are not infested or bad, chuck them into a pot of water, seeds, skin, core and all and cook them until soft. Once they are pressed through a food mill they can be frozen. The rest get peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes (roughly) and dehydrated, while the cores and peel are used for scrap vinegar.

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For my recipe this week I wanted to make a savoury dish so I did a search for soups. I read several tempting recipes from around the world, especially China and Eastern Europe, but either they called for ingredients I didn’t have or they were too sweet and better suited for a dessert. This one was perfect – a spicy Norwegian soup using juniper berries, a local ingredient I had just been collecting and drying and was keen to find a use for.DSC03219.JPG

If you don’t have any in your area, they can also be purchased at a good spice shop.

I altered the recipe somewhat, including using applesauce instead of chopped apples and then pureeing the whole batch. I liked my method because there is still some texture with the onions which I prefer, it being less like baby food. The combination of spices is not too strong, none overpowers the flavour but adds a subtle taste of exotica to the apples.

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Savoury Apple Juniper Soup

2 Tbsp oil

1 onion, chopped fine

1 inch ginger

1 Tbsp juniper berries

4 cardamoms

3 allspice berries

1 stick cinnamon

a few sage leaves

4 cups chicken stock

1 cup water

4 cups unsweetened applesauce (preferably home-made)

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Fry the onion and ginger in the oil until soft. Add the stock and water. Wrap the other spices and herbs in cheesecloth and place in the stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Remove  the spice bag, stir in the applesauce, salt and pepper and heat through.

dsc03241Serve hot garnished with sour cream or apple slices.

Linked to Fiesta Friday #141, Foodie on Board and Food for the Soul.


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Potato, Leek and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

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Winter has arrived early here in SE Ontario, and with a vengeance. I may not be able to dig up any more Jerusalem artichokes this year, but at least I got one last harvest this past weekend. I dried most of them, mostly to be ground into flour, but mixed a few with the potatoes and leeks I dug up on the same day to make a wonderful soup. I could have called my soup Jerusalem Artichoke Vichyssoise, but  since I used an additional ingredient, something other than the potatoes and leeks, I did not want to offend any Vichyssoise traditionalists. Still, this soup has the same rich, velvety texture, but with a little sweetness provided by the artichokes.

First a short note about the leeks. I was delighted to have grown this year the biggest best leeks I have ever grown, and at the same time disappointed that I had not planted a lot more. With so few to use, I made an effort not to waste any. When cleaning and cutting the leeks, I resisted just chopping off the dark green part. I carefully trimmed the leaves, starting with the outer leaves where the leaf leaves off being crisp. Each layer in turn needs less trimmed off, and the centre leaves, which are very tender, are cut the longest. So they look like this:

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Then slice the lengthwise and clean between the layers carefully to remove any soil.

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Then, having discarded the very dry and woody bits, I reserved the dark green leaves from the trimming to make a delicious stock.

The exact quantities for this soup are not terribly important. Just a mixture of the three vegetables, some water, seasoning and cream and Bob’s your uncle. This is how I made it.

Potato, Leek and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

2 small or 1 large leek

4 medium potatoes

1 cup of jerusalem artichokes

broth or water to cover

1/2 to 1 cup almond (or regular) milk

salt and pepper to taste

Method

Peel, clean and roughly chop the vegetables. Place in a pot and cover with water or stock. Simmer gently until all the vegetables are well cooked. Blend in a blender or food processor and return to the pot. Add as much milk as you need to make it the right consistency, and salt and pepper to taste.

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Other posts on Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem Artichoke and Fennel Soup

Jerusalem Artichoke Biscuits

Jerusalem Artichoke, Mushroom and Black Walnut Soup

Jerusalem Artichoke Gnocchi

Coconut Lime Jerusalem Artichoke Chips

Jerusalem Artichoke Ravioli


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Gazpacho with Purslane

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If you are looking for a gazpacho recipe which is smooth and creamy, spicy, and can be whipped up in a food processor in a few seconds, you’d better keep looking. There are plenty of those recipes out there, but when I make this traditional Andalusian soup, I make it as my Spanish professor’s wife taught me several decades ago, and as I saw it made when I lived in Spain shortly after that.

Since that time, gazpacho has become a popular ‘ethnic’ dish, with so many variations it seldom resembles the simple, cold vegetable soup I came to know and love in Spain. Its predecessor was a soup made of bread, olive oil and garlic, and only after the ‘conquista’ did tomatoes enter into the picture, and with them a few other local, seasonal ingredients like onion, cucumber and sweet pepper.

So for this week’s Fiesta Friday, I would like to share this recipe I have made over the years, a recipe which has a distinctively Spanish flavour but which I am able to replicate with ingredients from my own garden – the best of both worlds.

I was instructed that a good gazpacho starts with dried, crumbled bread. Into that, crushed garlic, salt and vinegar are rubbed together, and then a generous amount of olive oil added gradually, forming a creamy base which blends easily with the fresh chopped vegetables. This is not to say that you can’t ad-lib a bit, with sweet herbs or other seasonal vegetables. I made a couple of minor changes. I used homemade whole wheat bread because that’s what I had, and I substituted purslane for the green pepper.

I have written about purslane before. To learn how to identify it and about its nutritional properties, please visit this post. You will see that by adding purslane, I actually upped the omega-3 content, among other things. I gather purslane does grow in Spain, because in researching it, I found it grows pretty much everywhere. I have small patches of it throughout my garden, and one pot where it volunteered and smothered the pepper plants I was starting.DSC01053

So it is appropriate I chose to replace peppers with it.

Gazpacho with Purslane

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

Ingredients

2 lbs ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded

1 slice dried bread, about 2 Tbsp

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup olive oil

3 Tbsp wine or sherry vinegar

3 cloves (or more) garlic

a handful of purslane, chopped

1 thick slice sweet onion (about 2 Tbsp once grated)

1 cucumber, peeled and seeded

Method

Grate the bread to make a fine crumb and rub in the crushed garlic, salt and vinegar. Gradually add the oil and mix it vigorously.

Chop the tomato and purslane very fine. In order not to waste any of the juice, I put the seeds in a colander and strained as much juice as I could to add to the tomatoes. Grate the onion and cucumber. Add all the vegetables and combine. Chill for a couple of hours, and garnish it with an ice cube if you want it really cold.

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Jerusalem Artichoke, Mushroom and Black Walnut Soup

I only recently considered walnuts as an ingredient for soup, so when I looked on line for some recipes was surprised by how many are out there – bouillons, thick vegetable soups, Chinese dessert soups, even a few which featured my theme of the week – black walnuts. I did try one from a blog I follow which made good use of the strong flavour of black walnuts with squash. After that first success, I made my own with ingredients I happened to have on hand, namely Jerusalem artichokes, cremini (brown) mushrooms and walnuts. The combination of these local flavours worked really well, although I would not discourage anyone from coming up with other ingredients, maybe cauliflower, turnip, cabbage or whatever. There is no need for stock in this soup, as the flavours of the nuts and vegetables are strong enough on their own.

The artichokes were the last of the ones I dug up in the fall. I intended to cover my patch with mulch, and just rake it back over the winter months for some freshly dug ‘chokes. With all the snow we have had and the super low temperature, just as well I did not bother. All  the more for spring.

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Jerusalem artichokes

Cremini are of the same family as the white button mushrooms and are often sold next to them, at a little higher price. They are simply white mushrooms which are allowed to mature, which means they are sturdier and have a stronger flavour than the ‘babies’. If allowed to grow even larger, you get the portobello. These ‘browns’ keep well covered in the fridge, and although any mushrooms will work in this recipe, I was glad to have these on hand.

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Cremini mushrooms

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Chopped mushrooms

Further to my last post on walnuts, I managed to photograph one walnut cut open. You will see the difference between it and other walnuts.

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A cracked open black walnut

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Pieces of black walnut extracted from shell

The nut is lighter in colour, with a much darker skin covering.

It is smaller, and because of the tough shell, it is difficult to remove all in one piece. But a little goes a long way, and chopping helps spread them around. By the time you extract the nut from the shell, the chopping is all done.

Jerusalem Artichoke, Mushroom and Black Walnut Soup

1 lb Jerusalem artichokes

2 Tbsp oil

1 onion, chopped

1/2 lbs mushrooms, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup walnuts

1 tsp salt

3 cups water

Boil the artichokes until soft and peel them. Blend them in a blender or food processor with half the water.

Fry the onions in the oil until translucent. Add the mushrooms and continue frying until they are cooked.

Add the walnuts, Jerusalem artichokes, salt and the rest of the water. Simmer to heat through for about five minutes.

Garnish however you like, if at all. I put some sumac powder on it for a bit of colour and flavour.

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Jerusalem artichoke, mushroom and black walnut soup


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Jerusalem Artichoke and Fennel Soup

100_0653In the midst of dehydrating jerusalem artichokes, I decided to put a few fresh ones aside to make a soup. I also have an abundance of fennel in the garden, so the two ingredients seemed to make sense.

Just remember that if you are not accustomed to eating the artichokes, go easy at first. It is because of the inulin that some people have difficulty with them, but I read that if you cook them at a low temperature, it makes them more digestible. I don’t want to put you off – just want to be cautious.

My recipes are usually just a suggestion for how to use the not-so-familiar ingredients. There is no reason you can’t substitute whatever other than the main ingredient. If you don’t have fennel, celery, celeriac, turnip etc. would all work well.

Jerusalem Artichoke Fennel Soup Recipe

1 lb. (2 cups) chopped jerusalem artichokes

1 large potato, chopped

oil for frying

1 small fennel bulb, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups stock (recipe follows or use your own)

1 cup milk (I used almond, but any milk or even cream would work)

juice of 1 lemon or lime

Method

Boil the artichokes and potato in the stock until tender. Blend, roughly if you prefer. Fry the onion, garlic and fennel. When they are cooked, but not browned, add the vegetables in their stock along with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the milk and heat through. Just before serving, add the juice.

For the stock

A bouquet of fennel greens, stems and flowers. Put them in a pan with 2 cups of water, bring to a boil and cover, then simmer for about 15 minutes. Strain.

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Note: I prefer soups not to be over blended, so I blended the potato and artichokes separate. The fennel and onion I just chopped finely enough for soup. If you like a velvety consistency, you can cook and emulsify everything together.


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Milkweed flower and lambs quarters soup

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Having just recently learned that all parts of the milkweed plant are edible at different times, I have been too late to experiment with the early spring sprouts. I did fry some young leaves in June and some fully-bloomed flowers a little later – both were good but just experiments without actual recipes.

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The flowers are beginning to wilt now, but there are still a few young plants, and the flowers before they bloom are supposedly tastier, so I came up with this very simple soup recipe.

Before going any further, I should mention that you need to make sure you can properly identify milkweed. If you have it in your garden, you probably know what to look for, but otherwise you should check with someone who does know, as there are other, not so edible plants which are similar.

Also, I am always careful to encourage milkweed as it is beneficial to monarch butterflies in particular, and many pollinators in general. I sometimes have to pull them out of my vegetable patch, and otherwise I allow myself only one or two blossoms a plant, so there is still plenty left for the butterflies. Not all the flowers turn into pods (I hope to have recipes for those soon), so the plant won’t miss a couple.Image

Other than those considerations, the soup is very easy to make, vegan (unless you choose to use milk in place of the nut milk) and contains almost all foraged plants, which means it is inexpensive and super good for you. If you are not sure about lambs quarters, refer to my previous post on these here.

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Milkweed flower and lambs quarters soup

Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped

5 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 cup milkweed flowers (not yet open)

1 potato, chopped

1 cup cooked or tinned chick peas

1 Tbsp each oregano and parsley

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 cup water or vegetable stock

6 cups lambs quarters, leaves only (the stems by mid-summer are woody)

1 cup nut milk

Method:

Fry the onion and garlic in the oil on medium heat until the onion is soft, but not browned. Add the flowers, potato and chick peas and simmer for about 10 min, until the potato is soft. Add the herbs, salt, pepper and lambs quarters, and simmer until the greens are cooked (about 2 minutes), stirring to make sure they are cooked evenly. Add the milk (I used almond) and heat through. Blend it in a food processor or blender. Serve hot.


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Rhubarb Soup

Here is a soup which can be served hot or cold. It makes an elegant and inexpensive dish at this time of year. I added the pomegranate molasses to add a little red colour, and found the flavour goes well with the spices, but if you don’t have any, it can be omitted.100_0336

Rhubarb Soup

4 cups chopped rhubarb
2 cups water
2 star anise
1/2 inch fresh ginger
1 inch cinnamon stick
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses or juice (optional)
1 cup plain yogourt

Mix the first five ingredients together in a saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer for half an hour. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and discard the pulp. Add the sugar and stir over medium heat until it dissolves. Mix the cornstarch in some water and add to the mixture. Add the yogourt, heat but do not boil.