Split Pea Soup with Ham and Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

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One of the many things I love about Easter, aside from the candy and the colorful eggs, is the juicy spiral-cut ham that we serve up for dinner – and keep serving day, after day, after day, until the never-ending leftovers have been used up. Sick of ham sandwiches yet? Me, too! Here’s a quick way to finish off your ham without stuffing it into yet another stale dinner roll!

Split Pea Soup with Ham

Serves 6-8

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 white or yellow onion, diced
  • 6 medium-sized carrots, peeled and diced
  • 6 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 6 cups chicken stock (see recipe in Homemade Stocks)
  • 1 lb. dried split peas
  • 8 Yukon gold potatoes, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • ½ tsp. smoked paprika, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 ham bone
  • 1-2 cups diced ham, reserve a few Tbsp. for garnish
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, heat oil until shimmering. Add onions, carrots, and celery and cook until vegetables have softened and onion starts to become transparent, about 5-8 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook until just fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add stock, peas, potatoes, paprika, and bay leaf and stir to combine. Nestle ham bone in the middle of soup then bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until peas and vegetables are soft, about 40-45 minutes.

Remove bay leaf and ham bone from, discarding both. Ladle half of soup into a separate bowl, set aside. With a hand-held immersion blender, purée soup in pot until smooth, then return reserved soup to pot and stir until combined. Or alternatively, ladle half of soup into a blender and purée until smooth, the return puréed portion to pot and stir until combined. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

Add diced ham and heat until ham is warmed through. Ladle soup into preheated bowls and garnish with a drizzle with olive oil, some chopped ham, and a sprinkle of smoked paprika. Serve immediately or refrigerate covered for 3-5 days.

Mixed Green Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

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Serves 6

FOR THE SALAD:

  • 6-8 cups mixed salad greens
  • 3 hardboiled eggs, sliced
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas, cut into thirds
  • 2 green onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, shaved

FOR THE VINAIGRETTE:

  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. whole grain mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Toss all salad ingredients in a large bowl.

Whisk all vinaigrette ingredients in a liquid measuring cup until ingredients have emulsified.

Pour a little dressing over salad, toss, then repeat as needed.

 

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Carrot, Ginger, & Orange Soup with Walnut Pesto Panini

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When I was a kid Easter was a pretty intense time for my sister and me. You see, the Easter Bunny used to hide our baskets every year. But he wouldn’t just hide our baskets, he would HIDE our baskets! He was pretty extreme, and took pleasure in stashing our baskets in impossible-to-find places and delighting in the length of time it took my sister and me to find them. His signature hiding spots were places you wouldn’t think to look as a kid, like on top of the furnace in the creepy basement that my sister and I hated; or hanging in the laundry chute, suspended between two floors; or wrapped in a garbage bag under the kitchen sink. In my 8-year old mind, I was sure that the Easter Bunny didn’t give it up as easily as Santa because we left him carrots instead of cookies. He was jealous. And bitter. And everyone knows that there’s nothing worse than a bitter bunny. Well, maybe not. But still it got me thinking, surely our little cotton-tailed friend would be much happier if we left him something tastier than cold, raw carrots. Something warm and creamy and slightly sweet. Something a little bit like this….

Carrot, Ginger, & Orange Soup

Serves 4

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. carrots (about 3 cups), chopped
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (see recipe in Homemade Stocks)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Finely ground white or green peppercorn
  • parsley and sour cream for serving (optional)

In a medium soup pot, heat olive oil until shimmering. Sauté carrots and onion until soft and onion becomes translucent but not brown, about 5-8 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add stock, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce to low and simmer, partially covered, until carrots are fork-tender, about 20 minutes.

Carefully remove and discard cinnamon and bay, then using an immersion hand-blender, purée soup until smooth, or alternatively, working in two batches, purée soup in a blender or food processor until smooth, return to pot.

Add OJ and stir until fully incorporated, season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into preheated bowl, then top with sour cream and parsley.

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Walnut Pesto Panini

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Glancing down at this recipe it may look like it has many parts, but it’s actually very simple: 1) grill chicken, 2) make pesto, 3) assemble sandwich. Done! Oh, but I forgot, then you have to eat the sandwich, and lick the tomato juices off your fingers, and wipe the melted cheese strands off your chin, and then get up and make another sandwich because the first one was so good. So, yeah, I guess it is a difficult recipe, but I think you can handle it.

Walnut Pesto Panini

Serves 4

FOR THE CHICKEN

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

FOR THE WALNUT PESTO

  • 1 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ tsp. Kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste

FOR THE PANINI

  • 2 pre-split whole wheat pita pockets, cut in half
  • 4 slices mild white cheese (such as Gouda, Swiss, or Provolone), cut in half
  • 4 slices of tomato, cut in half

TO MAKE THE CHICKEN

In a bowl, mix together lemon juice, Dijon, and salt and pepper. Slice chicken breasts in half horizontally (making a cutlet), and place between two pieces of plastic wrap and, with a meat mallet, pound until ¼-inch thick. Place chicken in the lemon/Dijon mixture, coating evenly, and allow to marinate at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Lightly mist a skillet with cooking spray and set over medium-high heat. Remove chicken from marinade, letting excess drip off, and place in the hot skillet. Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes, then flip and cook second side until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing very thin.

TO MAKE THE PESTO

Combine all ingredients in a small food processor and process until mostly blended and somewhat paste-like, season with pepper.

TO ASSEMBLE THE PANINI

Preheat a panini press to medium-high heat, or alternatively, heat a griddle or skillet over medium-high heat.

Spread 1-2 Tbsp. of pesto on the inside of pita pocket, covering both sides.  Place sliced chicken inside of pita and top with 1 slice of cheese, cut in half so that it fits within the pita.

Place pita sandwiches in a panini press and cook until cheese has melted and pita starts to brown, about 2-3 minutes. If using a griddle or skillet, put pita sandwich on griddle/skillet and place a plate, weighted down with a tin can, on top of pita. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then flip pita and cook on the other side, topped with the weighted plate, until cheese has melted and pita starts to brown, another minute or so.

Slide tomato slices into sandwich, slice in half and serve hot.

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THIS HAS BEEN A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT FROM THE EASTER BUNNY.

Egg Drop Soup with Pork Roast Sandwiches

Egg Drop Soup

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Egg drop soup is one of those often overlooked soups; something you may order in a Chinese restaurant, but rarely think to make. This version is healthy, bursting with flavor, and very easy to make, and if you pair it with a simple pork roast sandwich, you’re got yourself the perfect meal for a light Easter lunch or dinner.

Egg Drop Soup

Serves 4-6

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 leek (white and light green parts only), finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tsp. fresh grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger root
  • 6 cups chicken stock (see recipes in Homemade Stocks)
  • 1½ cups peas (preferrably fresh)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. greated Parmesan
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

 

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Set a soup pot over medium heat and add olive oil, heat until shimmering. Add leeks and cook until soft, about 2-5 mintues. Add garlic, lemon zest, and ginger  and cook until just fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a liquid measuring cup whisk together eggs, Parmesan, and a pinch of salt.

Once stock is boiling, add peas, then slowly drizzle in egg mixture in 4 or 5 spots, stir until egg sets. Season with salt and pepper and ladle into preheated bowls. Garnish with fresh cracked pepper. Serve immediately.

 

Pork Roast Sandwiches

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Pork Roast Sandwiches

Serves 6

  • 1½ -2 lb. pork tenderloin
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 onion rolls
  • 6 Tbsp. whole grain mustard

Preheat oven to 400°F. Generously season tenderloin on all sides with salt and pepper. Place tenderloin on a rack set above a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes, or until internal temperature of pork is 145°F.

Meanwhile, on a griddle or under a broiler, lightly toast onion rolls. Keep warm.

Remove pork from oven and let rest for 10 minutes. With a very sharp knife, slice pork paper-thin. Spread each roll with 1 Tbsp. of mustard then pork, divided evenly among rolls.

Sidekick: Serve with a glass of Riesling.

Avgolemeno (Lemon Orzo Soup) with Homemade Hummus

Avgolemeno (Lemon Orzo Soup)

Avgolemeno is a traditional Greek soup made with a few simple ingredients: chicken stock, lemon juice, egg, and orzo (a type of small pasta). The first time I tried it was at a Greek restaurant in Seattle that probably doesn’t exists any longer. It was a cool old place on Capital Hill, the kind of mom-and-pop joint with murals on the walls, surly waiters, and a popular cheese appetizer that they would set on fire and yell “Opa!” every couple minutes. In the years that I visited, I don’t think I ever ordered an entrée – I went strictly for the soup and hummus. It was a light dinner that I could count on to fill me up without weighing me down, and just the kind of meal I’ve been craving now that Spring is upon us. Both the soup and the hummus are very easy to make, low in calories, and high in flavor.

Avgolemeno (Lemon Orzo Soup)

Serves 4

  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • ½ cup orzo
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, from about 2 lemons (see How To for the best juicing method)
  • 2 cups precooked chicken, shredded (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley (for serving)

In a large soup pan over medium heat, bring chicken stock to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to low. Add orzo to stock and allow to simmer until soft, about 18 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk together eggs and lemon juice until combined.

Once pasta has cooked, carefully ladle about ½ cup of soup into the egg mixture, while whisking constantly. (This is called tempering. Eggs harden when they cook, so you need to slowly increase the temperature of the egg to keep it from scrambling.) Repeat with a second ½ cup, whisking constantly.

Remove the soup from the heat and slowly pour in the tempered egg mixture, whisking constantly, for about 5 minutes.

If you’re adding chicken, now is the time to do it. Stir until warmed through, about 2-3 minutes.

Ladle into preheated bowls and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Homemade Hummus

Hummus is an excellent source of protein, and tastes great when spread on sandwiches, mixed into salads, or used as a dip for  veggies and pita bread. Sure, you can buy good hummus at the grocery store, but why would you when it takes 5 minutes and a food processor to whip some up at home?!

Hummus

  • 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, 2 Tbsp. canning liquid reserved
  • ¼ cup tahini (see Notes)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice (from about ½ a lemon)
  • 2 gloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • ¼ tsp. Kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • ¼ tsp. paprika, plus more for serving
  • 1 tsp. fresh chopped parsley (for serving)
  • Assorted cut vegetables, Greek olives, and pita bread for serving

In a food processor, combine all ingredients except parsley. Blend until smooth and creamy and no chunks remain, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with paprika and parsley. Serve with cut vegetables, Greek olives, and sliced pita bread.

Notes: Tahini is a sesame seed paste that can be found in most grocery stores, either with the peanut butter, or sometime in the ethnic food section.

How To:

Juice a Lemon

Hand squeezing citrus (lemons, oranges, and especially limes) can be a frustrating ordeal. Up until a few years ago I was cutting the fruit in half, then using a spoon to basically mash the pulp into submission, with varying success. It wasn’t until I attended a cooking demonstration at a wine festival (of all places) that I learned this fool-proof method.

1) Cut one end off of the fruit, about ¼-inch thick:

2) Cut 3 sides off the lemon, creating a triangle:

3) Set a strainer over a small bowl and squeeze lemon, end piece, and 3 side pieces until there is no more juice left in the fruit. Brilliant, right?!

Sidekick: With this light meal a dry white wine would work best, such as a Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Grigio.

 

Pesto Pastina Soup with Sourdough Grilled Cheese

I was watching the Weather Channel the other day (because that’s what plays in the locker room at my gym), and I noticed how divided the country is in terms of temperatures this month. The East Coast is still getting slammed with snow, yet the South is enjoying digits in the mid-80’s. The rest of us are somewhere in between; warm, sunny days immediately followed by cold, sleety days. So how, then, does a food blogger go about preparing a soup to satisfy our bipolar March climate? Well, it has to be versatile, that’s how. It needs to be a soup that’s substantial enough to take the chill off the brave souls on the Eastern Seaboard, yet one light enough for those of you already squeezing into bikinis (darn you!). I started rummaging through my dusty mental card catalogue of soup recipes, when suddenly it hit me: Ah ha! Pesto Pastina! Pastina, (literally meaning “tiny dough”) is any variation of small pasta. Pretty much any shape will work in this recipe, and I found some fun ones while perusing the pasta aisle at the grocery store (stars, the alphabet, little squiggly guys). The pastina adds a little bit of starch without making the soup too heavy, and the pesto adds a low-calorie punch of flavor. (Also, this soup can also be adapted for vegetarians, see VEGETARIAN MODIFICATIONS at the end of the recipe.) { Arancini di pepe pastina, or “little peppercorns” } Pesto Pastina Soup Serves 4-6

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3-4 celery stalks, diced
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 cups chicken stock (see recipe in Homemade Stocks)
  • ⅓ cup dry pastina, any shape
  • 2 cups pre-cooked chicken (either reserved from chicken stock recipe or store bought)
  • 3 Tbsp. pesto (see recipe below or use store bought)
  • Fresh grated Parmesan for serving
  • 4-6 lemon wedges for serving

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add celery, carrots, and onion and sauté until soft and onion starts to become translucent, about 5-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add stock and bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to low. Add pastina, partially cover, then continue to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover, add chicken and pesto and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle soup into pre-heated bowls and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Serve with a wedge of lemon for squeezing. VEGETARIAN MODIFICATIONS:

  • Replace chicken stock with vegetable broth (see recipe in Homemade Stocks)
  • Replace chicken with a 15-oz. can of cannellini beans, drained

Pesto Homemade pesto is delicious and easy to make. This recipe yields a little more than you need for the soup, but that’s okay, because you can use the extra to add flavor to other dishes: spoon a tablespoon or two into cooked pasta, or smother some on chicken for a quick and tasty meal.

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 2 Tbsp. pine nuts
  • 3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp. Kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Add garlic, basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, salt, lemon juice, and 1 Tbsp. oil to a food processor. Process until just beginning to come together, then while the machine is still running, slowly drizzle in remaining oil and continue to blend until smooth and paste-like. Season with pepper.  *Tip: To freeze, line individual compartments of an ice cube tray with small pieces of plastic wrap  (allow a little extra to hang out the top). Fill compartments with 1 Tbsp. of pesto, and place in the freezer until solid. To release, pull on the ends of the plastic wrap, and peel it from the pesto cube. Place cubes in a freezer bag and freeze for 3-5 months. When ready to use, drop 1-2 pesto cubes into hot pasta and stir until dissolved, or thaw and spread over grilled meat or bread.

Sourdough Grilled Cheese Grilled cheese is an awesome partner to soup, but why settle for the plain old white-bread-American-cheese version when you can easily prepare something more interesting. Switch up the bread to sourdough, and use a few different cheeses. Follow the directions below for ooey-gooey greatness! 

Sourdough Grilled Cheese

Serves 4

  • 8 slices sourdough bread
  • 4 slices Colby Jack cheese, divided
  • 4 slices Gouda cheese, divided
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese, divided
  • 4 slices Provolone cheese, divided
  • 4-6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

Heat a large skillet or grill pan over medium heat. Butter both sides of each piece of bread. Working in 2-3 batches, place bread on hot pan, and grill until golden brown. Flip one piece of bread and place a slice of each kind of cheese on top. Take a second piece of bread and place it grilled side down on the cheese, creating a sandwich. Repeat with other pieces of bread. Grill until golden brown, then flip and grill the second side of the sandwich until golden brown and the cheese has melted. Repeat with all sandwiches. Sidekick: Pair with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or a Gewürztraminer.

Leek and Potato Soup

Leek and Potato Soup

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Here it is, folks, the last of the last of the St. Patty’s Day meals. Although I’ve enjoyed the Irish recipes that we’ve dished up this month, I’m ready to retire my potato peeler for a while – and so is my waistline. This soup is a lighter version of the standard “potato leek” but it’s heavier on the leek than it is the potato, offering more flavor for less calories – and no cream added! If you like your soup super creamy (is that homophone getting old yet?) you can blend it to be smooth (like in the photo above), or leave bits of potato, leek, and celery. Regardless of how you dish it up, I think you’ll enjoy this tasty Irish soup. Happy St. Patrick’s Day! ♣

Leek and Potato Soup

Serves 4

  • 2 Tbsp. oil, such as grapeseed or vegetable
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 3 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 medium sized russet potatoes, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 3 celery stalks, with leaves included, roughly diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed and roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (see recipe in Homemade Stocks), depending on preference of thickness
  • ½ tsp. onion powder
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • 3 Tbsp. sour cream thinned with milk for serving (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh chives, chopped, for serving (optional)

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(I decided to add the garlic and bay leaf at the last minute so they didn’t make the family photo, sorry.)

Leeks: I always leave a hint (just a hint) of dark green parts on my leeks because it makes the soup greener (is that right?) Greener? More green? Anyway, you should use about this much leek…

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Leeks can hide dirt in their super thin layers, so after you slice them, it’s a good idea to swish them around in water to release any grim hanging on, like so…

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Celery: Nothing special about these guys, just chop them and include the leaves.

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Potatoes: Peel them, then cut them into ¼-inch slices. Cut the slices again into ¼-inch sticks, and finally cut the sticks into cubes. (I do the potatoes last so that they don’t turn that weird pinkish color as the sugars oxidize.) The progression of the potato…

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And the gang’s all here!

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Add butter and oil to a large soup pot set over medium-high heat, and cook until butter has melted. Add the vegetables and the crushed bay leaf, and sauté until soft, but not brown, about 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add 3 cups of the stock, bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are easily pierced by a fork.

Purée soup with an immersion hand-blender right in the pot; or in two batches, purée soup in a food processor or blender until you’ve reached the desired consistency, either smooth or chunky. This is chunky…

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Return to pot and taste for seasoning. Thin with more stock if needed.

Ladle into preheated bowls and garnish with a sprinkle of chopped chives and a drizzle of sour cream (or a sour cream shamrock – see How To below). Serve with dark Irish soda bread, or another hearty bread.

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How To: 

Making a sour cream shamrock is easier than it looks, here’s how you do it.

1) Thin sour cream with a little milk and stir until smooth.

2) With a small spoon, place 4 dots of sour cream in the middle of the bowl.

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3) Using a toothpick or bamboo skewer, drag one of the dots into the middle of the circle.

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4) Follow suit with the other 4 dots, dragging them to the center of the circle, forming the body of the shamrock.

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5) Continue to pull the sour cream downward, creating the stem of the shamrock.

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And violà!

Cheddar Ale Soup with Dark Irish Soda Bread and Mixed Green Salad

The Luck O’ the Irish to You! 

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March is here and that brings us one day closer to Spring (March 20th for those of you keeping track)! I’m sure everyone’s heard the old adage, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb,” which means we still have a few more weeks of crumy weather and comfort food to get through before the big (read sunny) payoff. So before you put away your crockpot and comfy pants and start pulling out your capris and old issues of Cooking Light magazine, we must first pay homage to St. Patty’s Day and all of the savory starches that hail from the great green country of Ireland.

Cheddar Ale Soup

This entire meal was incredibly quick and easy to whip up. I’m not exaggerating here; from the moment I started sautéing the veggies to when I had dinner on the table took less time than it did for my toddler to watch Toy Story 3 — her new favorite movie. (Time-Saving Tip: Make the bread first, then start the soup while the loaf is in the oven baking.) This soup can be easily adapted for vegetarians by following the “Vegetarian Modifications” at the end of the recipe.

Serves 6-8

  • 4 slices thick cut bacon
  • ¼ cup butter (½ stick)
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 stalks celery, diced, tops and leaves included
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1½ Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 12 oz. bottle lager-style beer
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (see recipes in Homemade Stocks)
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1½ Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. hot sauce (such as Louisiana or Tabasco)
  • ½ tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • ½ tsp. baking soda

In a large Dutch oven or wide-bottom soup pot, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, let cool. Dice and set aside for garnish.

Add butter to pot with bacon grease and melt over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery and sauté until soft and beginning to brown, about 5-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add flour and cornstarch to pot and stir until both have dissolved. Continue to cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the flour/butter mixture begins to brown and bubble (this is called a roux). Add beer and stir to combine. Continue cooking until half of the liquid has reduced, about 3-4 minutes.

Add stock, milk, Worcestershire, hot sauce, chili powder, and salt & pepper. Stir to combine and reduce heat to medium-low. Bring soup to a simmer and allow to cook for 15-20 minutes or until starting to thicken. (Time-Saving Tip: While the soup is simmering, prepare the salad and make the dressing.)

With an immersion hand blender, purée soup directly in pot until smooth. Or alternatively, working in 2-3 batches, purée soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return to pot.

Add cheese and baking soda to soup and whisk until cheese has melted. The baking soda may cause the soup to foam for a few minutes, but it will return to normal once the cheese has melted. (Time-Saving Tip: If you have a smarty-pants husband like I do, don’t make the mistake of asking what causes baking soda to foam, otherwise you’re in for a 20-minute super boring explanation behind the science of sodium hydrogen carbonate, otherwise known as NaHCO3.) Season with more salt and pepper if necessary.

Ladle soup into preheated bowls and top with a salty mound of diced bacon. (This last part is optional, but really, why would you omit the bacon?! Unless, of course, you’re a vegetarian, in which case you can skip ahead to the Vegetarian Modifications just below the delicious photo of bacon… right here )

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VEGETARIAN MODIFICATIONS 

Omit the bacon and replace with:

  1. 1 Tbsp. olive oil when sautéing the vegetables
  2. ½ tsp. smoked paprika with the stock, milk, Worcestershire, etc.

Sidekicks:

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  • This is kind of a no-brainer, but pair with a thick and creamy Guinness — or if you can find it, an equally creamy but not-so-dark Caffrey’s Irish Ale.
  • Nothing compliments cheese better than bread and apples. Serve this rich soup with dark Irish soda bread and a mixed green salad topped with crispy apple slices and creamy herb dressing.

Dark Irish Soda Bread 

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Irish soda bread is a dense bread that’s slightly sweet — making it perfect to sop up the remaining drops of Cheddar Ale Soup clinging to the sides of your bowl. (Recipe form cookbook author Elinor Klivans.) 

Dark Irish Soda Bread

Makes 1 loaf

  • 2 Tbsp. melted butter, plus 1 Tbsp. softened butter for greasing the baking sheet
  • 1½ whole-wheat flour, plus more for the baking sheet
  • ¾ cup all-purpose white flour
  • 1 Tbsp. dark or light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. molasses
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk

Position a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 375°F. Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet with softened butter, then sprinkle lightly with whole-wheat flour; tap to discard any excess flour.

Combine both flours, brown sugar, caraway seeds, baking soda, and salt in the large bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Mix to combine on low speed; add the melted butter.

Combine the molasses and the buttermilk; then add to the mixer bowl, on low speed; beat for a minute or two, until a soft dough forms. Gather the dough into a ball and roll it around in the palms of your hands to smooth it; the dough will not be perfectly smooth. Form into a 6-inch circle OR an 8-inch long oval and place on the prepared baking sheet. Use a smooth-edge knife to cut an X in top of dough, 1 inch deep (for round loaf), OR a 5-inch long, 1-inch deep slash along the length of the oval loaf.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the bread feels firm and crisp and you can see that the bottom has browned when you lift it carefully. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Serve with a big hunk of softened butter and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. Yum!

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Mixed Green Salad with Apples and Creamy Herb Dressing 

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This simple, flavorful salad of mixed greens and crisp apples is a perfect palate cleanser between spoonfuls of rich, cheesy soup.

Mixed Green Salad with Apples and Creamy Herb Dressing

Serves 4

For Salad:

  • 4-6 cups mixed salad greens
  • ½ apple (preferably Pink Lady, Fuji, or Honeycrisp), cored and sliced paper-thin with a mandolin

For dressing:

  • ½ cup Half & Half
  • 2 Tbsp. vinegar (preferably sherry or red wine vinegar)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 green onion, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh Tarragon, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. Agave syrup or honey
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Divide salad greens evenly among 4 plates and top with apple slices.

Whisk all dressing ingredients together until combined. Pour over salads.

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