Chicken Soup with Chickpeas & Za’atar

It’s October, while we still haven’t turned on the furnace, there’s definitely a chill in the air, and it feels great to wear a sweater.  My sister came over to play cards last night, actually we needed to practice as we’re having a card night with friends later this week, and we haven’t played since the spring.  We played Kings Corners, which is fun, strategic, and frustrating, which for me is the perfect card game.  For supper I decided to make soup in celebration of autumn, along with a simple cheese & veggie flatbread.

I wanted to make Posole, because of a dream I’d had recently.  After explaining to anyone who wanted to hear (in my dream) that a bowl of heated dirt was not, in fact, true Posole, I awoke wanting to make the real thing.  But living on an island, we can’t always go out and buy things like Hominy & the right Chilies. Staring into my pantry, I spotted jars of Za’atar and Sumac, and my brain clicked into place, so I grabbed them as well as smoked paprika and a tin of chickpeas.  With a great chicken stock ready, and a chicken breast in the freezer, I knew that they would come together to make a hearty soup.

The meal started with a small dish of Baba Ghanoush and some sweet potato crackers, along with a yummy Sangiovese. Next up was the soup with the flatbread.  The soup had so much flavour, with a deep broth, full of chickpeas, carrots, and pulled chicken.  Not a huge meal, but an absolutely perfect Card Night supper.

Enjoy making this soup, as it is fragrant and warming, and follows all the methods for a delicious braised meal. Note that the mix I use for Za’atar follows.   Continue reading

Mushroom Soup with Chestnuts & Apple

IMG_1494The first time I ever witnessed someone actually swoon over food was at Pino Posteraro’s “Cioppino’s”. On the other side of sixty, she had walked in wearing a swanky denim pantsuit, with a blond flip of a hairdo. She sat talking with her friends as they poured over the menu, just as we were, one table over. We had been considering the Mushroom & Chestnut Soup on offer. The chef had recently won the Gold Medal Plate Award for this very soup. While waiting for our dinner to arrive, she was served a bowl of this same soup. She lifted a spoonful into her mouth, and she just stopped. People at her table kept talking but she only had eyes for her soup. I think she ate the whole of it without speaking. I could hardly wait for my serving. It was the best soup I have ever eaten. This restaurant is well known for its incredibly fresh produce. Racks of tomatoes stand ready for sauces, with huge boxes of other veg, ready to go.

I knew that I couldn’t possibly replicate the recipe, even with it at hand, as buying produce of that quality and freshness can rarely happen at our local produce market. But, even with knowing that mine would never measure up, I have religiously made this soup once a year since (when chestnuts are available). Always tweaking it a bit, but it wasn’t until this year when I added some apple that it became so very, very close to the soup we had that evening. All I can think is that the apple added in the freshness that it had been lacking before. Continue reading

Hot & Sour Soup

IMG_8778One of our family’s favourite soups is Hot & Sour Soup, slightly spicy, sweet & sour with just a few ingredients; this is perfect for a light meal. There are some additions that do make it more authentic, but even this very basic version makes for a very happy meal. I can remember many busy school nights when this was served, always leaving us satisfied! Continue reading

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

IMG_8930During a busy week in a restaurant kitchen, I was checking the walk-in cooler doing the order for the following week. I came across three big cauliflowers that for some reason hadn’t been used. As the weather was rainy and cool, I decided to roast all the cauliflower and make soup. It sold out the same day. So here it is, simple, nutritious, with the depth of flavour that roasting gives. Enjoy! Continue reading

Roasted Carrot & Apple Purée

IMG_8745Textures and colours have always been important to me when it comes to food. I’ve had two memorable meals that were so off the mark that they made hospital food look good. Both were served on plain white china. Just setting the mood.

The first was served in a small home eatery on one of the Gulf Islands. Dinner was sliced chicken breast, mashed potatoes and cauliflower. Sounds great, yes? No added herbs, sauce, gremolata, or anything resembling colour or flavour, bland, bland, and bland. I could not believe that someone was proud to serve this to paying guests. Of course, maybe they weren’t. Maybe they didn’t care.

The second was at a major restaurant chain. We stopped in for a quick supper during a shopping trip. I ordered Fettuccine Alfredo, looking forward to a velvety sauce full of flavour. What I got: soft noodles smothered in a cream sauce. I couldn’t detect any cheese flavour at all. As well, there was nothing else on the plate, no sprinkling of herbs, not even a sprig of parsley. Disappointment prevailed.

When I plan a menu, I love to incorporate lots of colours and textures, as well as great taste. I’m happiest when I hear people exclaiming how beautiful it all looks, and then look forward to the silence as they all tuck in.

When planning a buffet, I like to have a purée of some sort as part of the mix, nothing soft and mushy, but something with deep, interesting flavours that is firm, as well as having a velvety texture. For an upcoming job, I want to have carrot purée tucked in amongst the other vegetable dishes, to compliment them in colour, but also that has enough flavour of its own, that people will go back to it for seconds.

So here’s what I’ve come up with. Continue reading