I’m a bit embarrassed to showcase three hot soups in a row because the weather this winter in Southern California has been absolutely beautiful.
Yes, we would love more rain for our thirsty environment, but we keep seeing sunny 70°F + days… week after week. So, my Chicago family and friends and everyone Back East with shovels in hand, I am dedicating these three soups to you. Stay warm kids!
The crimini mushroom, also known as baby bella, is actually a young portobella. They are earthy and more flavorful than common white button mushrooms, therefore an excellent choice for mushroom soup. When paired with velvety rich and tangy crème fraîche, the result is a heavenly bowl of warming potage, no matter the outside temperature.
I never met an Ottolenghi recipe that I didn’t like. And Curried Red Lentil Soup is no exception. The Israeli-British chef describes his soup as “healthy and hearty, spicy and straightforward, frugal and fragrant in equal measure.”
He touted his svelte recipe as an antidote to rich holiday foods…but since those holidays are now a distant memory, I’m garnishing with a generous topping of irresistible crispy fried shallots.
Curried Lentil Soup with Tomato and Coconut Recipe
Winter Radish Salad
Feta, Kalamata Olive, Frisée, Baby Celery, Upland Cress
Dressed with Fresh Lime Juice & Olive Oil
It was difficult to resist all those colorful heirloom radishes…and the frilly heads of frisée, hydroponically grown long thin stalks of baby celery and the delicate lime green leaves of upland cress too. While strolling the outdoor aisles of the Torrance Farmers Market – a crunchy, peppery, chromatic winter salad began to take shape.
Watermelon radish – an heirloom Chinese daikon – is a stunner with its white and green shoulders and vibrant fuchsia interior. The taste is mild with almond-sweet notes. Purple radishes – a Korean radish hybrid – are small and plump with a gorgeous violet ring around striated white flesh. They are far more peppery than the watermelon variety. I chose watermelon and purple radishes for their visual appeal and different flavor profiles.
Frisée, baby celery, upland cress, and chives make up the green elements of this winter salad. With a bittersweet flavor and unique frizzy texture, frisée adds character. Upland cress has pretty leaves with a pungent spicy flavor. The baby celery has an intense celery flavor concentrated in the leaves. Chives bring that mild classic onion flavor.
The dish never fails to bring back sweet memories of my Nana and Aunt Edythe. My 2017 version of Kasha Varnishkes includes mushrooms and walnuts. It has more pasta and vegetables in relation to the buckwheat, and uses plenty of heart-healthy olive oil.
I remember that Auntie Edythe would prepare hers with lots of kasha in proportion to the bows and no doubt used plenty of schmaltz. It was more of a buckwheat dish than a pasta dish. She was such a terrific cook. It has been decades since her passing, but none of us will ever forget her cooking, especially her banana cake…and that she served real whipped cream made from scratch in the 60s when everyone else’s whipped cream came out of a can.
Feeling nostalgic with Hanukkah approaching, I was looking through boxes of my mom’s old photographs and came across the one below. Sadly, everyone in the photo except my cousin Robert has passed away. This image, taken at the iconic Palmer House in Chicago c. 1956, is a true treasure. I believe that we bless them and they, in turn, bless us each and every time we think of them. Our memories keep the people who have passed on forever close to us.
My Nana (paternal grandmother) was born in Kiev, Russia 1894. The family fled to Canada to escape the pogroms when she was a young girl. Her birth name was Vitte but she took her sister’s name, Fanny, after Fanny was killed in some sort of machine accident that was never explained to us as children. And now that there is no one left to ask, it will remain a mystery.
She met my Papa (paternal grandfather) when they were teenagers. Their families were living in the same apartment complex in Montreal. His name was Yitzcok when he was born in Romania in 1891 but changed it to Isadore upon arrival in Canada when he was 13 years old. They said he celebrated his Bar Mitzvah on the boat.
Fanny and Isadore married then made their way to the United States and settled in Chicago where Papa took the more American name of Irving, and they raised their children, (my aunt) Edythe and (my dad) Leonard.
I remember one day when we were kids, my Dad asked us if we knew Papa’s real name. I thought about it and said “Is” because that’s what Nana called him. Then I fell into a fit of giggles, “What kind of name is Is, Dad? That’s a verb!”
Our extended family always called Papa by the name Izzy (from Isadore) and Izzy is now my nephew Jett’s middle name. Jett celebrated his Bar Mitzvah in Chicago this past summer. Jett’s older brother Stone has Leonard as his middle name. Leonard sadly passed away in 1971 when he was just 49 years old. Stone, his would-be first grandson, was born in 2001. By keeping their names alive, we bless them.
International Happy Hour
Mission Figs/Cambozola/Oloroso Sherry
Fresh figs from California, creamy cheese from Germany, and semi-sweet sherry from Spain together create an amazing food synergy. They enhance each other in this simple yet stellar international happy hour fare.
Our cherished dark purple California figs were brought to the New World in the 1500s and got their name from the Franciscan missionaries who brought them up from Mexico and planted them in the mission gardens along the Pacific coast in the late 1700s.
Black Mission Figs have a honeyed-earthy-fruity flavor and creamy lusciousness. They are available fresh from mid-May through November.
Cambozola is German cow’s milk cheese reminiscent of a combination of French Brie and Italian Gorgonzola…triple creamy with that distinctive bleu cheese flavor.
Oloroso Sherry from Jerez, Spain has wonderful aromas of nuts, vanilla and caramel plus rich nutty semi-sweet creamy flavors. Oloroso sherries offer a terrific balance between sweet and dry.
A chewy rustic bread brushed with good olive oil is key, be sure to grill the bread over an open flame rather than toast it, that smoky char adds an important element to the combination.
Fresh thyme sprigs add another earthy layer.
Enjoy figs warmed in adorable cast iron pans with bubbling cambozola on grilled bread with a nip of oloroso sherry for a rich, savory, smoky, and sweet happy hour. Cheers to Fall!
Pumpkin Ricotta Lasagne with Fried Sage
Green Lentil Lasagne Noodles
It was our pleasure to serve Pumpkin Ricotta Lasagne with Fried Sage at last weekend’s successful benefit “Sip & Savor: A Gluten-Free Experience” to support the Celiac Disease Foundation on behalf of Explore Cuisine.
A pumpkin ricotta mixture seasoned with warm complex pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, cloves) is layered with gluten-free green lentil lasagne noodles, plenty of gooey mozzarella, and nutmeg-scented béchamel. Fresh sage leaves fried in butter enhance the seasonal flavors. Due to its overwhelming popularity, I promised to share the recipe here on Taste With The Eyes.
The Celiac Disease Foundation Board of Directors held Sip & Savor in a design center at the state-of-the-art Custom Design & Construction in El Segundo, California – it was a terrific venue for this event.
Event proceeds benefited Celiac Disease Foundation, the internationally-recognized non-profit organization that drives diagnosis, treatment, and a cure through research, education, and advocacy to improve the quality of life for individuals affected by celiac disease and non-celiac gluten/wheat sensitivity.
Explore Cuisine makes an extraordinary noodle for lasagne recipes. It is produced in Italy of green lentil flour (50%), green pea flour, and brown rice flour. These no-boil noodles soak up sauce to two-and-a-half times their size to a perfect al dente texture.
The noodles are full of plant-based pea protein, a lovely pale olive-green color, organic and gluten-free. They are also higher in fiber and lower in carbs than traditional lasagne noodles.