I heart film. - A little over a year ago I bought a Canon Ae-1 and last week I found the first roll of film I shot on it and finally had it processed (Its been a crazy year ...
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Celery is a vegetable I have never particularly cared for. I will use it as a base for soups & sauces - but there is something about it I always found slightly off-putting. I know a lot of people who feel this way about tomatoes and I have always said they only feel that way because they have never had a real tomato - one straight off the vine. I realized this might be part of the reason why I don't like celery - its such a common ingredient we have gotten used to it being in the stores year round but really - like most vegetables - its in season in summer and early autumn.
So this week at the farmers market I saw fresh locally grown first-harvest celery and I have to say I barely recognized it. It was a beautiful dark green - lush and leafy and still attached to its bulbous root. I had to buy it, and decided immediately I would make this soup. See - I used to hate fennel (or anything remotely resembling anise-flavor) too. Then, my first (and last) time dining at a Michelin-star restaurant, I had a Fennel Cream soup and I had a total flavor epiphany. I think you could literally see the light bulb go on over my head and suddenly I got it. Now I finally understood the beauty and subtley of that flavor - and all the delicious places it could go (it was the best soup I have ever tasted. Really.).
So now when I see a really beautiful ingredient I tend to gravitate toward a really simple cream soup. This soup is light and fresh tasting and seems perfect for summer (it would be great for a harvest-time meal as well). The pure celery flavor (which by the way, is not at all the same as when its that white watery stuff we use during the winter) just shines and tastes so fresh and summery. With the gremolata it is over-the-top delicious - the bright crispiness of the herbs and lemon make such a perfect compliment. I do realize the irony of a creamy soup recipe directly following my post saying I'm on a diet. But here's the thing - simply leave out the cream (you can let people stir it into their own bowls if you like) and this is still a rich, satisfying and delicious soup. The cream just gives it that extra something special. That being said - about 3 cups (which I would call one main dish serving) of this is only 225 calories (but 24g fat if you are counting).
Cream of Celery Soup with Celery Leaf Gremolata
5 cups finely chopped celery
1 cup chopped celery leaf
2 medium onions, diced
2 cups diced peeled celery root (supplement with potato if your celery root isn't big enough)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs butter
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt & pepper
Olive oil (optional)
1 Tbs celery leaf, finely chopped
1 Tbs flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 Tbs lemon zest
1 small clove of garlic, finely minced or pressed
Heat butter in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add celery, celery leaf, and onions. Stir and cover and cook down until very soft and just barely beginning to caramelize - around 25 minutes. Stir occasionally. (This is a good time to make the gremolata)
Add celery root and garlic and stock. Stir, raise heat and bring just to a boil then cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for around 35 or 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.
Turn off the heat and with an immersion blender blend the soup until no lumps remain. Taste and season as necessary. You can do this ahead and keep in fridge or freezer.
Stir in the cream and taste and season again if necessary. Ladle into bowls and drizzle with a nice light & fruity olive oil and top with a spoonful (or to taste) of gremolata.
Gremolata: simply combine all the ingredients and mash together in a mortar & pestle or in a small bowl with the back of a spoon.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Um, wrong - cause I already do all that. I don't eat convenience foods and unfortunately I really have fallen in love with baking. Telling me to make my own desserts will not help me lose the weight I gained during pregnancy - quite the opposite. I have to go the much harder route - if I want to lose I have to find a way to eat a lower calorie diet at home. Which means what I really have to do is find a way to make 'diet' food something I actually enjoy making and eating. Cooking is much easier (and more fun) when you aren't concerned with the amount of butter you are using.
And of course, when my birthday rolled around a few weeks ago and I really wanted to make a chocolate cake, that meant I needed to find something that wouldn't undo all my hard work. I immediately thought of Angel Food cake, which is one of my favorite things anyway. I had always wanted to try a chocolate one and I found this recipe filed under 'healthy' on Epicurious and I thought I would give it a try. You know what, its really good. Its slightly more dense than traditional Angel Food cake and could easily be used to substitute any chocolate cake if needed. Its not too sweet, very chocolatey and only has 185 calories a slice (less if you are making more than 8 slices - which we did). Its the perfect indulgence for those on a restricted diet and its tastes great even if you aren't. We had it with just a dollop of Greek yogurt that I stirred some vanilla bean into, and we loved it!
Diet Friendly Chocolate Cake
from Chef Albaladejo at Four Seasons Aviara
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 tsp salt
12 egg whites
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 163 C / 325 F
Sift 1 cup of the sugar, flour, cocoa and salt together in a small bowl.
In a (very) large mixing bowl beat egg whites, lemon juice and vanilla on medium-high until peaks form. Add sugar and beat on high until semi-stiff peaks form (don't overbeat they will break down).
With a rubber spatula slowly and gently fold in dry ingredients until all incorporated. Spoon into a tube pan and cook for 45-55 minutes or until the top springs back when you touch it (I found it to be on the lower end of that time frame).
Remove from oven and invert onto a wire cooling rack to cool (if you don't invert the cake will sink!). Gently remove cake from pan after it has completely cooled and serve. Its great with yogurt or cream or marscapone, dusted in powdered sugar, with a light glaze, with fruit...you name it, the possibilities are endless!