We had a really nice little dinner party with our house guest and our neighbors. Great conversations, great wine and they are all such great friends that they were willing to let me cook a few experiments.
My neighbor, Harriet, brought delicious appetizers (hummus, pita and dolmades) and a tasty Greek salad. And I decided to experiment with one of my standard soups, as well as try a completely new entrée and dessert.
Overall, dinner was fine. The soup turned out great. The dessert was divine. Everyone was happy and well fed. I was really disappointed, though, in my eggplant entrée. It was described by my extremely honest husband as “healthy tasting.” And it was quite healthy. I got the idea for it from a couple different recipes in the book The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein.
First off, I baked the eggplant cubes then I made a gratin of sorts with a tomato sauce that I made with onions, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes and a little orange peel and layered that with some white beans, topped the whole works with some dried bread crumbs and a drizzle of olive oil and baked until browned. It sounded good in theory, and it fit the bill for a vegetarian entrée (our house guest describes himself as a strict vegetarian, which means that he doesn’t eat any animal products or dairy). But sometimes what sounds good, doesn’t always turn out. The eggplant was too firm. I think eggplant needs to be meltingly soft. Frying the eggplant would have been better. And the dish really needed a little more flavor or richness. Cheese probably would have helped there, but that would have defeated the purpose of the menu. Oh well.
Luckily the soup was delicious. It was a variation on a soup I have made dozens of times and shared with all my friends. Now it’s time to let my blog readers in on it. You’ll find the recipe at the end, and it’s really worth making.
This soup manages to be creamy and rich without a drop of cream or butter in it. It’s not healthy tasting at all! Made with Yukon Gold potatoes, yellow squash and my new addition of fresh corn, it’s a beautiful sunny looking soup with a spicy roasted chili garnish. It’s perfect for the end of summer and on into fall.
The dessert managed to even out shine the soup and this was the first time I experimented with a cobbler. I got the idea to do a peach cobbler and a raspberry sorbet from a class that I took from our local Williams-Sonoma. Usually you think of pairing a fruit cobbler with vanilla ice cream, but it turns out a fruit sorbet is delicious with cobbler.
I offered the choice of the sorbet, vanilla ice cream or both. The recipe that I got from the class didn’t make any sense to me, so I started looking at all sorts of cobbler recipes. I had an old issue of Cook’s Illustrated that did peach cobbler and that was very helpful, but I didn’t like their idea of a biscuit topping. I wanted it to be more of a pie crust topping, the way I had seen it in the cooking class. So, I merged a few recipes and came up with something that works perfectly. This would be fine on its own or served with a little store bought good quality vanilla ice cream. But, to take it to the next level, serve it with homemade raspberry sorbet. I have made raspberry sorbet before, but after looking at a number of other berry sorbet recipes, I decided to tinker with my recipe and this one is definitely better. It has the right proportion of sweetness and it manages to taste more creamy than icy, as a good sorbet should. Please do try these recipes.
Yellow Potato, Squash and Corn Soup
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
3 yellow summer squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peel on, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 ears of fresh corn, cut from cob
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
a couple tablespoons of chopped Italian parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the garnish:
2 or 3 mild to medium chili peppers
1 or 2 small jalapeno peppers (if you want even more heat)
1. Bring the stock to a boil in a large soup pot. Add the potatoes and the squash, lower the heat and simmer partially covered until the vegetables are tender. It should take about 20-30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, roast the peppers on a grill or over a gas flame until blackened. Put in a paper or plastic bag for a few minutes to “sweat” then scrape off the blackened skin. Chop the peppers. Peel and dice the avocado.
3. Puree the soup until smooth in the pot with a hand held blender (if you don’t have one of these great devices, transfer to a blender or food processor). If the soup is too thick—you should not be able to stand a spoon up in it—add a little more stock.
4. Then add the Italian parsley and corn and cook over low heat until the corn is heated and tender but still has a little crunch, about 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Potato soups can take more salt than you realize.
5. Serve the soup. Put each of the garnishes in small bowls and allow guests to garnish with as much heat as they like.
Serves 4-6. Note: this soup can also be chilled overnight and served cold.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cold water
1 pint of yellow raspberries (optional)
1/2 cup sugar
the juice of 1/2 lemon (2 to 3 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1. First make the cobbler crust. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor. Then add the butter, cut in slices and pulse until it resembles coarse meal. Whisk the egg yolk, vanilla and cold water in a small bowl and then add through to the food processor and pulse just until the dough pulls together. Transfer the dough to a piece of plastic wrap on a board and wrap in the plastic, forming it into a flattened disk. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cut a small “x” in the bottom of each peach. Carefully drop each peach into the boiling water for a few seconds and lift out to cool slightly. Peel the peaches (it should peel off easily from the “x”) and slice them. Combine the peaches with the sugar, lemon and cornstarch and mix gently. At this point you can also add a pint of yellow raspberries. Put the fruit mixture in a 9 x 12 baking dish.
3. Take the cobbler dough out of the refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured work surface to approximately 1/4 inch thick. Don’t worry if it is cracked and broken. Pick up pieces of the dough and arrange them on top of the filling in a random pattern. The dough should not fully cover the peaches, and it should look rustic.
4. Sprinkle the dough with about a tablespoon of sugar and bake for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for another 50-55 minutes until the topping is lightly browned and the peaches are bubbling. Let cool on a wire rack, but serve slightly warm with sorbet/ice cream.
1 1/8 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
2 pints of red raspberries (about 3 cups)
the juice of half a lemon (2 to 3 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon Framboise or raspberry brandy
1. Combine the sugar and water in a small but heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir for a couple minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved and clear. Lower the heat and add the raspberries. Stir gently until the berries are soft for about a minute and then remove from the heat. You don’t want the berries to fall apart completely.
2. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl and press the raspberries against the strainer with a wooden spoon. Discard the seeds.
3. Stir in the lemon juice and the Framboise, cover and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight. Pour the chilled mixture into your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for another hour or so until it becomes a little firmer. Makes 1 pint.