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

Mushroom Potpies with Blue Cheese


IMG_5108 An incredibly rainy morning – we haven’t had a day like this since last spring, so I’m not complaining.  I even turned on the furnace yesterday when I realized the house wasn’t going to go above 65°. Probably because of the weather, I figured it was time to have a warm & fall type meal, so started muddling through ideas in the mid afternoon.  We have lots of meats available, but they’re all in the deep freeze, and really, meat should be thawed in the fridge rather than the microwave, but having not planned ahead, meat wasn’t an option.  We do have some halibut & salmon, waiting to be used (because they can easily be cooked from frozen), but I’m trying to make them last at least a little longer.  So, I decided to go with a vegetarian meal.  I have made mushroom potpies a fair amount in the past, but usually for clients.   Taking the time to really think them out, crusts and all, produced a heartier version than the ones I’ve done before.

Potpies are definitely one of the best comfort foods we have, whether they’re beef, poultry, fish or vegetable. One Christmas I made 3-dozen mixed potpies as a gift for Mom & Dad to have in their freezer for those nights when they just wanted something simple.   Probably one of the best gifts I’ve ever given based on the scale of appreciation.

Basically a potpie is a hearty stew capped off with pastry.  They can just have a top crust, or be double crusted.  This short-crust is one of my favourites, but there’s no reason not to use any savoury basic piecrust recipe.          Continue reading

Mushroom Barley Soup

IMG_1819Barley & Mushrooms are great companion foods.  In a risotto type dish, stew, or soup, they have a restful flavour, reminiscent of a walk in the misty forest of late fall.  Scotch Broth and Oxtail soup are similar soups except that they require meat and several more ingredients.  This is a very simple soup, usually the ingredients are on hand, and it takes about 45 minutes to make.   If you have this recipe in your repertoire, you can pull a hearty, nutritious, vegetarian dinner out of a hat in under an hour.  Just serve with some great bread, such as Hearth Bread.    Continue reading