Roasted Yellow Pepper Soup (or red or orange . . . )

The perfect first course for a cool brisk autumn day is this golden savory roasted yellow pepper soup.  A light soup, yet bursting with the heady flavor of sun-ripened peppers, it’s quite easy to make.  The secret is the roasting of the peppers.  Bring them to a blackened char and soft interior in the oven and by no means dilute their flavor by taking the peel off under water.  A crusty ciabatta, delicate salad and grilled meat will add up to a wonderful meal.

Ingredients

6 medium sweet yellow peppers

2 T unsalted butter

2 medium yellow onions, cut into a small dice

1 t salt (1/2 if using salted chicken broth)

¼ t white pepper

1 t freshly roasted and ground cumin

2 cloves garlic, mashed and chopped

2 T flour

4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable)

2 cups whole milk

Crème fraiche and roasted red pepper powder for garnish

Procedure

1. Rinse and dry peppers and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet.  Roast in a 400 degree oven until blackened, turning from time to time.

2. Remove from oven and place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap while proceeding with recipe.

3. Melt butter in a large pot and add onions, salt, pepper and cumin and cook until translucent.

4. Add garlic and continue to cook until fragrant. Sprinkle on flour, stirring and cooking for two minutes.  Stir in chicken broth and bring to a simmer.

5. Pull the skins off the peppers (not under the faucet) and discard seeds, membrane and stem.

6. Roughly chop peppers and add to pot.  Simmer 10 minutes.

7. Stir in milk.

8. Puree in food processor.  Pour back in pot and heat gently.

9. Serve in heated soup plates with a garnish of crème fraiche and a light sprinkle of roasted red pepper powder.  Serve 5 – 6.

Peppers, Food and Wine Section, Dating Symbol blog

Victor Talks Peppers

Being raised in a strong tradition of Southern Italian cuisine, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing the most creative uses of nature’s simplest ingredients.  Peppers were most assuredly one of them.  Green and red bell peppers, slender fryers – both hot and sweet – pepperoncini, you name it.  They all made an appearance on my mother’s dinner table in the most luscious ways imaginable.

green peppers, food and wine section, Dating Symbol blog

Where to start?  Well, one of my favorites was stuffed peppers.  Mom actually had two versions in her culinary repertoire.  When using sweet, red bell peppers she would stuff them with a mixture of ground beef, onions, garlic, parsley, Parmigiano and rice.  Covered with a bit of marinara (simple red sauce) they were popped into the oven until tender.  Really nice.  My favorites, though, were the long fryers.  She’d split them in half and stuff them with a mixture of breadcrumb, garlic, parsley, Parmigiano, anchovies and olive oil.  They were then baked until the breadcrumb was nicely browned.  I ate copious amounts.  Still do.
Orange Peppers, Food and Wine Section, DAting symbol blog

Another favorite growing up was what my mother’s mother called giambotta.   Most definitely a peasant dish, this is a simple stew of red and green bell peppers, tomatoes, onions and potatoes which is served as a side dish.  I’ve actually called it dinner, with lots of crusty bread and a good Chianti.  Another one of Nonna’s best dishes were roasted red peppers.  She would char them whole on the stove top burner.  When they were done, they went into a paper bag to steam off the blackened skin.  Then they were seeded, sliced and dressed with extra virgin olive oil, garlic and parsley.  Simple, yes.  Exquisite, most certainly.
Sausage and Roasted Roasted Peppers, Food and Wine Section, DAting Symbol blog

Of course, no Southern Italian summer menu would be complete without the addition of sausage and peppers.  There are so many ways to prepare this.  My preferred method is to grill the sausage, cut them into bite size pieces and keep warm.  I then sauté red or green peppers with lots of onions and garlic until tender, and combine the sausage into the mixture.  At this point, you may add some tomato sauce and bake for a while – as the Neapolitans are wont to do.  I keep it simple and serve as is.  Nothing like it.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Enough with the Italian stuff.  Yes, it’s true.  Italians don’t own peppers!  And, being the consummate foodie, I enjoy them in any cuisine.  Asian, for instance.  What would a good stir fry be without the addition of peppers?  Latino cuisine as well.  I mean, without peppers a good sofrito wouldn’t be very good at all.  And I don’t know where Mexican cooking would be without the pepper – especially chiles.  But we’ll explore that in another blog.  Even our own American fare makes use of sweet peppers.  We include them in our salads, stews and good old fashioned home fries.  We even add them to omelets for color and depth of flavor.  As for pepper soup?  Why not!  Try Phyllis’ recipe above.  It’s a winner.
Master Choice Ribs, Food and Wine Section, Dating Symbol blog

So what is it about the pepper that makes it so coveted by so many lovers of the culinary arts?  When working with the red bell, I believe it’s the inherent sweetness it possesses.  As for the green bell, it imparts a nice freshness and aroma that is reminiscent of a home garden.  The spicier varieties appeal to the more adventurous.  But more than that, I believe is a textural thing as well.  In their cooked state, peppers are somewhat meaty and add nice body to any dish.  In their raw state, it’s the crunch that I look for.  I’m sure you do as well.
FrozenPeppersFajitas, Food and Wine Section, Dating Symbol blog

Photographer Bill Brady

Written by Victor Ribaudo

 

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Smoked Ham and White Bean Soup

Does it seem that that big chunk of leftover Easter ham might remain in your refrigerator for weeks, even if you have a large family?  Fear not.  Here is an idea of how to turn that succulent, savory meat and ham bone into an invigorating soup.

Ingredients

3 T olive oil

2 cups small diced onions

1 cup small diced celery

1 cup small diced carrots

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

16 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 Mediterranean bay leaf

1 T fresh thyme, minced or 1 t dried

½ t freshly ground black pepper

2-3 lbs. ham shanks or hocks

6 cups chicken stock (water can be substituted or added if more is needed)

1/4 cup dried lentils

1 large potato, diced

3 cans white beans, such as cannellini, drained

1 t hot sauce, such as sriracha, or to taste

Leftover ham, diced

Procedure

In a large Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat, add oil. When oil is hot, add onions, celery and carrots.  Sauté until onions are translucent, about 4 minutes.  Add garlic, tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme and pepper.  Cook a few more minutes until spices begin to release their flavors.

Add 2-3 lbs. of ham shanks or hocks and stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce to medium low and simmer for 45 minutes.  Add more stock or water if needed.  Add lentils and potato and cook for 20 minutes..  Remove shanks or hocks and bay leaf.  Add beans and sriracha sauce.  Stir.

To thicken soup, pulse very briefly with a stick blender or take out 2 cups, puree in a food processor and add back to pot.  Remove the meat from the bones and return to pot along with any other leftover ham.  Heat through, taste for seasoning* and ladle into individual serving bowls.  Serve with a crusty bread.  Serves 8-10.

*Not knowing how salty your ham might be, I have omitted salt.  Add to taste if needed.

(photo by Bill Brady)

Easter Ham with Maple and Mustard Glaze

Plated ham with potatoes and spring vegetables

A succulent glazed ham is an easy and classic choice for a holiday celebration. And since Easter is right around the corner, why not plan on picking up a half pre-cooked ham, either shank or butt end if you will be serving 12 or fewer people.  For a larger number of people, a whole ham would be your best choice. Providing you’re not going for a smoked country ham, a ready-to-eat ham is an economical choice as it often goes on sale just before Easter.  Even so, look for the best quality. “In natural juices” on the label will assure a better flavor than”with water added”.

Now, which to buy, the butt end or the shank end?  The butt end will provide more meat, although it will be more difficult to slice because of the shape of the bone.

Ingredients

½ ready-to-eat, cooked ham, bone-in, uncut (not spiral cut), shank or butt end, 8-11 lbs.

About 50 cloves

Glaze

½ cup champagne vinegar

¾ cup maple syrup

½ cup country-style Dijon mustard

2 T apricot jam

Pinch of kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

1. Remove the ham from the refrigerator still in its wrapping a couple of hours before you’re planning to cook so as to bring it close to room temperature.

2. Make a diamond pattern on the ham by cutting straight lines into the fat with a sharp knife about ½ inch deep parallel to each other.  Score another set of lines at a 45 degree angle to the first to create a diamond pattern. The classic appearance is achieved by inserting a clove at each intersection.

3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Place ham, fat side up in a roasting pan lined with aluminum foil.  Cook ham in oven for one hour.

4. While ham is cooking, make glaze.  In a small saucepan, heat vinegar over medium heat until reduced to 2 T.

5. Add maple syrup, mustard, jam and salt.  Cook, whisking, until well combined, about 2 minutes.  Season with pepper to taste and set aside.

6. Remove ham from oven and brush top and sides generously with one third of the glaze.

7. Return to oven.  Remember that the ham is already cooked so you don’t have to cook to an internal temperature of 140 degrees as is often instructed.  The ham will need about another half hour of cooking to achieve an inner temperature between 110 and 120 degrees.  It will be very warm, if not hot, and is more likely to retain its moisture.

8. Baste every ten minutes with the glaze. Don’t baste ham with its own juices as the glaze might wash off.

9. Take the ham out of the oven, cover with aluminum foil and let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Spiral ham

Everyone’s a Ham by Victor Ribaudo

With Easter fast approaching, many of us are planning the big spread.  A couple of blogs back I spoke about my love affair with lamb.  That’s always been the holiday staple in my home this time of year.  I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t extol the virtues of the ever popular ham.  It also makes an appearance on so many an Easter dining table.

In fact, it almost always seems to be present at any festive holiday meal in America.  Probably because it’s easy to prepare and it just tastes so good!

When I discuss ham with people my age (over 30 is all I’m admitting to) almost everyone has a similar early experience.  Many of us were served the ones that come from those oversized tin cans.  Opening them was a perilous job which my Mom would only entrust to my Dad.  I believe we called them Polish hams in our home.  I don’t know that it really made sense to do so.  I do know that they were usually donned with pineapple rings and maraschino cherries before being popped in the oven to warm through.  They were tasty, especially in the following day’s lunch boxes – nestled between two slices of bread with copious amounts of mustard, of course.

Spiral ham platter

The canned variety doesn’t find its way to my table anymore.  I, as most of my fellow foodies, have graduated to more lofty ham aspirations.  There are all sorts of varieties from which to choose – boneless, bone-in…smoked, sugar-cured…whole, butt, shank, spiral.  You name it, it’s out there and pre-cooked or cured for your convenience.

My personal favorites are the smoky varieties. (Smithfield, yum!) Bone- in, of course.  I mean, who doesn’t look forward to pea soup simmered with a ham bone?  The bone is a must for this home chef.

Lentil and Bean Soup

What’s interesting to me is that although in its purest form ham is just a cured roast, there are so many delectable ways to enhance it.  I like my ham studded with cloves.  Call me a purist, but it just works.  And I prefer it glazed with a sweet concoction.  A nice counterpart to the saltiness of the meat.  (Try Phyllis’ recipe above.  It’s a winner.)

I don’t stop there, though.  Fruit and ham go together like love and marriage.  (Come on, you know it’s true!)  And although pineapple and ham make a heavenly pair, I will often complement mine with peaches sautéed in butter and kissed with a bit of rum.  Over the top for you?  Well, any fruit compote will do, really.  I would stay away from pears and apples for Easter, though.  Too autumnal.

Baguette with ham and brie

Now, I must admit that my favorite uses for ham fall in the leftovers department.  I adore it fried up with eggs the following morning.  Divine.  Sliced and pressed in a panini with brie for lunch.  Irresistible.  Cubed in dinner time soups, stews and salads.  Doesn’t get any better.  Yes, I can eat ham all day long.  My mouth may be dry at midnight, but I’m fully sated.

You know, I’ve just decided to serve ham along with the leg of lamb at my Easter celebration.  I’m hoping that all of the lamb goes, and there’s plenty of ham left over.  It’ll be a salty Monday…and I’m going to enjoy every bit of it.

Recipe by Phyllis Kirigin

Photographer Bill Brady

Written by Victor Ribaudo

Blog syndicated at the datingsymbol.com

Abigail-Madison Chase says:

April 13, 2011 at 6:49 pm

This looks delicious I am trying it for Easter!

Roasted Vegetable Gazpacho plus a “Tomatini” Bonus

Tomatini, aka a Bloody Mary Martini

Few soups are as inviting on a hot summer day as a cold gazpacho.  My idea of improving upon an already refreshing combination of local fresh produce is to first roast the tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic to lend that charred, slightly smoky flavor.  The added attraction here is the creation of a tomato martini by straining the steeped vegetables through a fine sieve, and mixing the liquid with vodka in a cocktail shaker to serve as a “tomatini”.

So as not to duplicate flavors in the same meal, I suggest serving the martinis one day, and allowing the flavors of the gazpacho to meld in the refrigerator and serving the soup the following day.

Ingredients

For gazpacho:

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil for brushing cookie sheet and vegetables

4 large ripe beefsteak tomatoes cut in half horizontally*

1 large sweet onion cut into thick slices*

2 sweet red peppers cut in half lengthwise*

2 garlic cloves peeled

1 medium cucumber, seeds removed and cut into chunks*

1 T balsamic vinegar

1 t Worcestershire sauce

1 T fresh lemon juice

2 t chili powder

1 T salt

½ t freshly ground black pepper

2 cups tomato juice

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

For croutons:

2 oz day-old French bread, crusts removed and cut into ½ inch cubes

1T butter

1 T olive oil

For garnishes:

*2 T each reserved vegetables cut into a small dice before processing

1 small jalapeno pepper, finely diced

1 t each chopped basil, mint, thyme and parsley

For tomatini:

4 oz. strained gazpacho

8 oz vodka

2 t fresh lemon juice

4 drops Tabasco sauce

Ice

12 tiny grape tomatoes

Procedure

On a large cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil and lightly brushed with olive oil, place the tomato halves, (cut sides up) onions, sweet pepper halves (cut sides down) and garlic.  Brush vegetables with olive oil and roast on the middle shelf of a 400-degree oven checking after 15 minutes from time to time.  Take out the garlic when soft, the tomatoes and onions when golden and the pepper halves when blackened.  Let cool.  Peel the skin off the tomatoes, squeeze out the seeds and place in the container of a large food processor.    Peel the skin off the peppers, take out the seeds and place in the container.  Add onions and garlic. Pulse until lightly mixed.  Add cucumbers, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, chili powder, salt and pepper.  Pulse until coarsely pureed but not smooth.  Add tomato juice and pulse again. Pour into a glass or plastic container and chill until icy cold.

Sauté croutons in 1 T butter and 1 T olive oil until crisp and golden brown.  Set aside in a small bowl.

Combine raw tomato, cucumber, sweet pepper, jalapeno, onion, basil, mint, thyme and parsley in a small bowl and set aside.

For tomatinis:  Strain 4 oz. of liquid from the gazpacho. Place in a cocktail shaker with 8 oz. vodka, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and 4 drops of Tabasco sauce.  Add 2 scoops of ice and stir vigorously. Strain into four 4-oz martini glasses.  Garnish each with tiny grape tomatoes on a skewer.

After liquid for tomatinis is strained out, stir ½ cup extra virgin olive oil into gazpacho.  Check texture.  If too thick, thin with a little tomato juice. Ladle soup into shallow soup plates and serve with the croutons and chopped vegetables in separate bowls.  Serves four generously.

Photographer Bill Brady http://bit.ly/9wFYxm
Food Stylist Brian Preston Campbell

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