Chilled Blueberry Soup

Blueberry Soup

The idea of blueberry soup may sound a little strange. Due to their liquefied savory nature, cold soups often seem like somewhat of a disappointment. If you think about it, other than possibly tomato juice or V8, how often do we consume liquids that are both cold AND savory? With the popularity of cleanses and “green” juices as meal replacements, this may change in the near future (liquid pizza anyone?). However, I believe that this is currently why cold soup is often considered a slightly sad underrated sister to it’s hot counterpart.

I’m not actually a fan of cold soups either, though they are starting to grow on me. Blueberries, however, are a favorite of mine. I eat them obsessively regularly. So when I saw this recipe for blueberry soup in “The Art of Good Cooking,” I was compelled to try it. Apparently, blueberry soups originated in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Hungary, and Poland all have similar versions. This recipe seems closest to the Icelandic or Polish versions though many of them use some kind of starch, and this one does not (nor does it really need it).

My grandmother wrote that this chilled soup is “not a sweet fruit soup, but more like a cold beet borscht.” I actually think it’s pretty sweet, yet tasty. The sour cream (yogurt could be substituted for a healthier version) cuts through the sweetness and combines with the lemon juice to give it a creamy tang. You may be surprised how much you enjoy it. I even made Popsicles out of the leftovers, which we’ve since started calling “soupsicles” – I know, a little strange, but surprisingly refreshing. And how many soups do you know of are so multipurpose-fully delicious?

Ingredients:

2 cups water
1 pint blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 lemon, juiced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

Combine water, blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon stick in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick. Transfer soup to a blender (or blend with a hand blender) and puree until smooth. Whisk in sour cream. Chill and serve garnished with sour cream and blueberries.

Serves 6.

Adapted from “The Art of Good Cooking.”

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Red Snapper or Cod Veracruzana

Cod Veracruzana

This is one of many, quick fish dishes from “The Art of Good Cooking.” Fish is one of the most interchangeable proteins. For example, although cod or snapper are the recommended fish for this dish and they are commonly sold, you could use mackerel, bass, or even tilapia (very cheap but bland and a waste of time in my opinion). Traditionally made with Snapper, this dish originated in Mexico in the Veracruz state and is probably the most famous dish from the area. The combination of well known Mexican spices like cumin and chili powder with garlic, olives, and olive oil – ingredients that were supposedly brought to Mexico by the Spaniards – give this dish it’s unique spicy international taste and flavor.

Ingredients:

3 lbs filleted red snapper or thick cod steak
1/4 cup olive oil
3 large green peppers, seeded and sliced
3 large onions, sliced
12 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried basil (or 1/4 cup fresh, chopped/chiffonade)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 large bay leaf
1 teaspoon cumin
1 cup canned tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup chicken or fish stock
cayenne pepper or hot sauce to taste
24 mixed olives
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Dry fish fillets with paper towels. Saute fish in a little olive oil very briefly, on both sides, until it is lightly browned. Arrange fish in a broad baking dish.

In the same pan, saute the green peppers, onions and garlic in remaining olive oil. When vegetables are just soft, stir in chili powder, basil, oregano, bay leaf, and cumin.

Place tomatoes in a small saucepan, and cook over low heat until they lose their shape and form a sauce. Add fish liquid to tomato sauce, then combine sauce with vegetable mixture. Season to taste with salt, pepper, sugar, and cayenne or hot sauce. Spoon this mixture over and around fish. Place in a 400 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes or just until cooked through.

Sprinkle olives, fresh tomato slices, and cilantro over dish. Serve at once.

Serves 6.

Adapted from “The Art of Good Cooking” by Paula Peck.

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Tricolor Potato Salad

Multicolor Potato Salad

In the interest of the hot summer days ahead, I’m continuing my testing of easy classic salads. The simplicity of some of the salad recipes in “The Art of Good Cooking” is refreshing. The base of this potato salad recipe, for example, has just five ingredients (not including the dressing). To change it up a little, I added kalamata olives and used tricolor baby potatoes. You’ll find these bite size potatoes sold in mesh bags which usually include purple “Peruvian” potatoes (who’s skin, I found, falls off easily after cooking), red potatoes, and white potatoes- similar to fingerlings. You could, of course, use all one type of potato, but what’s the fun in that?

Potato salad has somewhat of a lengthy history that’s intertwined with the long and overwhelming history of the potato, of course. As a basic salad that includes potatoes and some kind of dressing, many different countries (mostly European) have their own versions. Though I haven’t been able to find any official documentation, it seems German potato salad was one of the first (or the first) potato salads to make it to the US. Interestingly, my grandmother mentions in her notes for this recipe that German potato salad normally contains mayo, but that this vinaigrette version was preferred by her family. I always thought the opposite: that German potato salad never had mayo and always had some type of vinaigrette. After a little research, it appears that different parts of Germany have different “traditional” German potato salads. Some are creamier and often contain mayo, while others do not.

I included two sets of instructions below: the original and modified. Since I often don’t want the extra heat from the oven in the summertime (and prefer a quicker version), I like to simply cook the potatoes and dress them. The original recipe requires cooking and then baking them. Both methods are delicious. Since potatoes hold up well to seasoning and salt, kalamata olives are a welcome contrast in both texture and flavor. Pack this one away for your next party in the park and happy picnicking.

Ingredients

2 lbs tricolor baby creamer potatoes
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1/4 cup olive oil (2/3 cups for the baking version)
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
1 onion, minced
1 small green pepper, minced
1/3 cup parsley
3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives

Modified Quick Cooking Version
Wash potatoes; place in a deep pot. Cover potatoes with water and stock. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Drain and cool until they can be easily handled. Peel the purple potatoes. Cut all potatoes in quarters.

Whisk together oil and vinegar until emulsified. Add vinaigrette to warm potatoes and refrigerate until cold.

Add olives, minced onion, green pepper, and chopped parsley.

Original Version
Wash potatoes; place in a deep pot. Cover potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Drain, cool, and refrigerate until they are cold. Peel the purple potatoes. Slice all potatoes and place in an oven-proof dish.

Add chicken stock, olive oil and vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Place in a 350 degree oven for 1/2 hour, or until the potatoes are hot and liquid is simmering. Remove potatoes from oven and allow them to stand until lukewarm.

Add olives, minced onion, green pepper, and chopped parsley. Chill and serve.

Serves 6

Adapted from “The Art of Good Cooking” by Paula Peck.

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Stuffed Squid

Crab Stuffed Squid

I know what your thinking about this photo. What are those awkward tubular things with pale centers speckled with green. Are they giant croquettes? No…it’s a seafood delight: whole squid stuffed with a crab shrimp combination smothered in a tomato wine sauce. If you’re a seafood lover than this dish is for you.

I made very few changes to this Italian based dish from “The Art of Good Cooking.” Primarily, I just eliminated the beef gravy because it’s often too time consuming to make and using a canned gravy with fresh seafood seems like a waste. As with all seafood, the two most important elements for success are: 1. To use the freshest seafood 2. Not to over cook any of it, especially the squid. If you manage these two tasks, you’ll end up with a soft buttery mix of lump crab meat and tender shrimp surrounded by light fresh squid with just the slightest bite. Save this one for a special occasion.

Ingredients:

6 medium-size squid
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon tarragon
1 1/2 cups finely chopped cooked shrimp
1 1/2 cups finely chopped cooked crabmeat
salt and pepper
1/2 cup scallions
1 cup tomato puree
1/2 cup red wine
Saute chopped onion and half of the minced garlic in half melted butter. When vegetables are soft, add chopped parsley, tarragon, shrimp, and crabmeat. Toss well together. Season well with salt and pepper.

Stuff this filling firmly into the cleaned squid tubes. Heat remaining butter in saucepan. Add chopped scallions and remaining garlic. Saute till tender. Add tomato puree and wine. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Lower heat. Add stuffed squid and simmer until squid are tender, about  20-30 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Serves 6.

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Green Beans Catalan

Green Beans Catalan

I haven’t been overly impressed with the vegetables section of “The Art of Good Cooking.” In my opinion, this is the most dated part of the book where it truly shows it’s age. Too much olive oil or butter, often unappetizing soft veggies, more frozen veggies than fresh, and what we would normally try to make clean and simple today, is loaded down with fatty ingredients like mayo or bacon fat. I completely understand why this section is the way it is. No one in the 1960’s was eating kale salads or “super greens.” Like most of her cooking, which was often influenced by friend and mentor, James Beard, my grandmother’s recipes were based on classic French techniques. This is not to say that this section can’t be modernized and updated like the others. It’s just a little more challenging.

This is a very simple recipe from the vegetables section. Per my research on Catalan cuisine, my changes and additions may make it less authentic, as this seems to historically refer to the northeast region of Spain and it’s Mediterranean style cooking (such as the olives and capers I left out). However, it’s quick and the reduced olive oil (1/4 cup to 2 tablespoons) as well as the addition of goat cheese and tomatoes, makes it colorful and healthy.

Ingredients:

4 cups green beans, cut in 1″ pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large tomato, peeled (optional) and chopped
1 small green pepper, minced
1/2 cup snap peas
1/4 cup white wine
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 cup black olives (optional)
1 tablespoon capers (optional)
crumbled goat cheese
tomato, quartered

Place green beans in heavy saucepan. Add olive oil, onion, garlic, green pepper, snap peas, and wine. Season, cover tightly, and cook over medium heat until green beans are tender and very little liquid is left in the pan. Check seasoning and add parsley.

Serve with your choice of garnish: goat cheese, tomato quarters, olives, and/or capers.

Serves 6.

A few technical notes about this recipe:
Peeling the tomato before chopping is optional but if you don’t, you may end up with pieces of the skin throughout the dish (as you might see in some of these photos). I personally  don’t mind this but it can be avoided by quickly blanching the tomatoes in boiling water and peeling the skin off.
The snap peas may cook faster than the green beans. To avoid, add them after the green bean mixture has been cooking a few minutes on medium.

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