Category Archives: Odds & Ends

The worried gardener

I planted a small garden last month. Herbs and flowers, nothing too crazy. This was a momentous occasion for me, however, and has been a constant source of worry and joy – sometimes alternating, sometimes all at once – ever since.

garden beginning

The thing is, I’ve never actually been successful in making anything grow. Why would I have planted a garden then? (you may ask) Well, there’s just something about living in Oregon that made me feel like I needed to try again. Everyone here has a garden! Well, OK, not everyone, but many, many people. Many more people than in any other place I’ve lived.

And all these gardens – in front yards, in back yards, in that little strip between the sidewalk and the driveway, in boxes and beds – they are all thriving. Plants just seem to go nuts here. And it makes sense – the temperate weather, the rain, the summer sun. So, I thought, “Why not me? Why can’t I, too, be a gardener – here in the land where everyone manages to be a gardener.”

marigolds

So, here I am. A fretting, uneasy, emotionally delicate gardener watching her little herbs like a hawk and erupting into disproportionate celebration when they, you know, grow. Or don’t die, I’ll take that too. Thankfully, they have been growing, well most of them, and I haven’t yet managed to over- or under- water them.

I was not successful with seeds – none of the flower seeds ever sprouted and only one tender, teeny-tiny cilantro shoot out of a whole mess of ’em managed to pop its head up out of the soil. The catnip and the chives are going gangbusters though. The marigolds are blossoming anew every day. The parsley and thyme are making it. And the mint and lemon verbena are chugging along.

garden1

One of the books I’ve been using as my Bible for this process is Grow Cook Eat by Willi Galloway, and Willi says that one of the mistakes people often make when growing herbs is not harvesting often enough. I have definitely been guilty of this in my past herb-growing attempts. She attributes this to the thinking that you will “save up” all the leaves on the basil or mint or whatever for one big harvest so that there will have enough to do whatever you want to do with it. My reasoning has been much simpler…I’m just afraid to kill the thing.

With Willi’s assurance that harvesting early and often will make for a healthier, fuller plant, however, I recently ventured forth, scissors in hand, and gathered my first harvest of the season.

herb harvest

A mighty harvest it was not (I may have gotten a little sheepish and started to worry I was cutting off too much), but it was a start. And I made the lovely and refreshing herb infused beverages below with my bounty. So, here’s to summer, and new growth!

herb water

Mint & Lemon Verbena-Infused Sparkling Water and Iced Tea

Inspired by Willi Galloway
Makes two quarts total

This isn’t so much a recipe as an idea: take a handful of herbs, throw them into some water, and get creative! Here’s what I did, but please feel free to customize – use more or less herbs to suit your taste, use different herbs, add other flavorings and add-ins. In short, go nuts.

  • 2 1-quart glass jars
  • ~1/4 cup lemon verbena leaves
  • ~1/2 cup mint leaves
  • 8 cups water
  • squeeze of lime
  • 3-4 black tea bags

Rinse herbs and split them between the two glass jars. Fill with water.

Add a squeeze of lime to one jar and the tea bags to the other. How many tea bags you use is up to you – I read somewhere long ago that a good rule of thumb is one tea bag per cup of water, so I added four.

Close up the jars and chill in the refrigerator for at least 5 hours, but preferably overnight. If you’re not ready to drink the water after that, you can leave the herbs in for as long as you like – it just keeps getting more herb-y and delicious – but do take out the tea bags.

When ready to drink, pour water through a fine-mesh sieve to strain out the herbs.

In order to make the one sparkling, you’ll need to have one of the contraptions that does such things and you should follow the instructions for said contraption. If you don’t have one of these doohickeys, simply enjoy the water un-carbonated. For the tea, add any sweetener you like, but it is also deliciously bracing when enjoyed unsweetened.

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You win some, you lose some

To be perfectly honest, friends, I flubbed this whole blog thing a bit the past couple of weeks. Work has been extremely busy and all of my creative pursuits (including this one) have gone by the wayside.

I was going to try to pull the wool over your eyes by sharing a lovely rhubarb compote that I whipped up before the rest of the stuff hit the fan, but it turns out I’ve lost my notes on the recipe. So, I can’t even do that. Ah well, I guess you win some, you lose some.

The compote was based on this recipe, which is an old stand-by for me during rhubarb season, but it was slightly less sweet and made with local Meadowfoam Honey. Just look at how delightful it is:

finished compote

I am still very glad I made it because it has been my constant breakfast companion during this hectic time. You can spread it on toast or dollop it onto oatmeal and Voilà! A plain breakfast suddenly feels special and ever-so-spring-like. Maybe I’ll give it another go, now that things have calmed down, and share it with you then.

In the meantime, I highly recommend whipping up your own version if you get your hands on some rhubarb. The original recipe is quite simple and easily adaptable. It mixes well with berries (fresh or frozen), it takes kindly to the addition of chia seeds, and you can use almost any sweetener you have on hand. I even grated a Granny Smith apple into it one time because I was low on sugar and honey. Now that’s my kind of recipe.

So…what else do you want to talk about?

How about the cherries that I was absolutely delighted to find sprouting this week on the tree in our backyard? The thing with this cherry tree is that we knew when we moved in that it was a cherry tree, but we didn’t think it was going to bear fruit this year (or for a long time) because of the way it was pruned by the owner. Blah, blah, blah, long story, but lookit!

cherries

Those are cherries in the making, my friend, and there are lots of them. I’m so excited! Now, I’ve been warned about the havoc that birds can wreak on a producing fruit tree, and I have already begun planning evasive maneuvers (that will not hurt any birds!) So, assuming that goes well and we have cherries in the next month or so, I’ve also begun gathering cherry recipes.

Cherries are generally a fruit I enjoy raw because they are a) delicious raw, b) SO expensive I never want to buy enough for a recipe, and c) a pain in the butt to pit. If I have enough free cherries to eat raw and cook into to tasty treats though, you better believe I will do just that. Here are some of the recipes I have my eye on:

Do you have any other ideas for me? I’m all ears! And I promise to keep you posted on the results. Maybe I’ll even get it together enough to share an actual recipe on this very blog. Go figure!

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Making sprouts, if not friends

It is difficult to make new friends in your 30s. I know that to those of you in and past this phase of life have probably already figured this out, but bear with me a moment while I catch up. I’m just not as social as I used to be. In fact I find that I’ve developed a social awkwardness that I don’t remember having in my 20s. Maybe it’s because most of my social interactions then were at a bar, drink in hand?

In any case, I find I still have the human need for friends, but am less adept at interacting with strangers than I once was. So, one solution to this has been to seek out structured activities where I am thrust into the presence of other people, but do not have to make a lot of conversation with them right off the bat. Knitting class, writing workshop, author readings, gardening class, and one class about sprouting. Yes, a class about DIY sprouting given at the local co-op. How’s that for being a crunchy Oregon hippie?!

lentils

I didn’t make any friends at the class, but I did learn a lot of fascinating things about sprouting and I have been hooked on it ever since. It turns out there is a lot more to sprouts than the alfalfa variety that I remember from my youth, and that I hated. You can sprout nuts, beans, lentils, seeds, grains, the possibilities are endless! Or nearly so.

And there are some convincing health benefits, at least I find them convincing, that have to do with all the nutrients locked up in the seed of a plant (which is, of course, what all the aforementioned things are). When you sprout a bean or a nut, you release all the protein and vitamins that it was storing to help it grow into a strong, healthy plant. Sprouts are also delicious, and have very different flavors depending on what you are sprouting – something that surprised me because my sprout experience had been limited to the alfalfa variety.

spices

My favorite sprouts so far, and the ones that have been the most consistently successful, are lentil sprouts. So, they are the sprouts featured in today’s recipe. I have also had a few challenges, though, and one sprouting disaster – lest you think my sprouting glasses are a little too rose-colored. The disaster was self-inflicted, really, and involved an attempt to sprout garbanzo beans that I knew were way too old to do anything with other than use as pie weights. Pro tip: if beans are too old to cook, they are too old to sprout.

citrus

For the most part though, sprouting has been smooth-sailing, delicious, and nutritious. This recipe is by far my favorite that has incorporated lentil sprouts, but they are supremely versatile. They add a wonderful texture and flavor to salads, sandwiches, or as a topping for just about any quinoa or other grain salad.

finished salad

Carrot, Avocado, Sprout Salad over Quinoa

Barely adapted from DailyCandy (RIP)
Makes four good-sized portions, good for lunch or dinner

Directions for lentil sprouts are below this recipe, but heads up: it takes about 3 1/2 to 4 days to sprout lentils. So, if you want to make this recipe, you best get sprouting!

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch chunks
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup, plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 tangerines (I used Cuties), halved
  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and sliced
  • 4 cups lentil sprouts (directions below)
  • a couple dollops of sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons mixed seeds (I used pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame, but you could use any seeds you want), toasted

Combine quinoa, 2 cups water, and a pinch of salt in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Turn heat down to just what is needed to maintain the simmer and cook until all water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy, 15-20 minutes.

While quinoa is cooking, turn the oven on to 350° and put a large pot of water on to a boil. When the water is boiling, add the carrots and cook until a knife pierces them easily, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the garlic, cumin, thyme, chili, 1½ teaspoons salt, and ¾ teaspoon pepper in a food processor and pulse until pasty. With the food processor running, add the vinegar and ¼ cup of the olive oil and run until well-mixed. Set aside.

When the quinoa is done, set it aside. When the carrots are done, drain and then arrange them in a single layer on a sheet pan. Spoon the cumin/olive oil mixture over the carrots.

Cut 3 of the tangerines and 1 lemon in half and place them on top of the carrots, cut-side down. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes or until carrots are golden brown.

When cool enough to handle, squeeze the juice from the roasted tangerine and lemon halves into a small bowl. Squeeze in the juice each from the remaining uncooked tangerine and lemon. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste and drizzle about half over the roasted carrots, reserving the rest.

To assemble the dish, start with a scoop of the quinoa and top with saucy carrots, then avocado, then sprouts. Drizzle with reserved sauce, add a dollop of sour cream to the top, and then sprinkle with toasted seeds. Serve immediately.

Lentil Sprouts

Directions from Susan Hyne, who taught the sprouting class
Makes ~4 cups

  • 1/4 cup lentils (I used Puy lentils, but you could use Beluga, brown, red, yellow, etc.)
  • 1 quart glass jar with a screw top lid
  • cheesecloth

Rinse lentils in a sieve and then dump into the glass jar.

Fill the jar with water. Cover the opening of the jar with a 2-ply piece of cheesecloth and then screw lid on to hold cheesecloth in place.

lentils in jar

Cover the jar with a kitchen towel to keep out light and soak lentils for 12 hours.

After the lentils have soaked, drain the water and rest jar in a small bowl so that it’s tilted and any remaining water can drain out. Re-cover with the kitchen towel.

draining lentils

Rinse the lentils and the bowl well 2-3 times per day for 3-4 days, each time returning the jar to the bowl so that the lentils can drain and covering with the towel.

day one

 

day two

day three

The sprouts are ready when they are about 1-inch long.

finished sprouts

Eat right away or store in the fridge. If you are storing in the fridge, do not rinse right before putting them in the fridge (i.e. you want them to go into the fridge as dry as possible to keep them from getting slimy). If you put them in the fridge dry, they will keep for up to 4 days.

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On being an ant

I’ve spent the past week being an ant. Which is to say that I’ve been storing up the food and flavors of summer in the hopes that they will help get me through the dark, rainy winter months.

Summer sky

You remember that fable, don’t you? It is one of Aesop’s. In it a resourceful ant spends the waning days of summer storing up food for the winter while an irresponsible grasshopper fritters the days away having fun and playing his…legs (pfft! the nerve) When winter comes, the ant’s home is warm, cozy, and full of food and friends, while the grasshopper is hungry and cold and has nowhere to go.

You can probably tell from this rich description that I have a very specific vision of the fable in my head. The Grasshopper and the Ants, Walt Disney’s version of the fable, was a beloved cartoon that I watched more times than I can count.

I learned from Wikipedia (where most things are learned nowadays) that the fable has been politicized throughout history and that Disney’s adaptation of it has a – unmistakable, now that I think about it – Roosevelt/New Deal angle to it. I always identified more with the responsible ant than the carefree grasshopper anyway, making me the perfect audience for Walt Disney’s political agenda!

The Grasshopper and the Ants

Image from Wikipedia

Annnywho, now that we’ve had that little digression, let me tell you what I’ve been up to lately – besides spending too much time on Wikipedia.

Two weekends ago I took a class at The Pantry from Willi Galloway. It was about growing your own herbs and using them in the kitchen. The class was so inspiring! I immediately went out and bought her book and started planning my garden for next year.

During class we made her recipe for Rosemary Lemon Salt. I’ve been sprinkling it on nearly everything I’ve cooked since. It is so delicious that I took my scissors to my own overgrown rosemary bush (which I learned I should have been pruning several times a year!) and dedicated a large bunch to the same salty-lemony-delicious fate.

Rosemary Lemon Salt

And then this past weekend I bought a big bag of humble Roma tomatoes at the farmers market and roasted them in a low oven for several hours ala this recipe from Orangette. The slow roasting concentrates the flavors of these fleshy, oft-overlooked tomatoes into something that can only be described as magic. Summer magic.

Roasted tomatoes before

Half of those went into the fridge for immediate consumption, and the other half I wrapped individually in plastic and put in the freezer. It’s enough to make me almost wish for the dark, cold, drizzly night in January when I will pull a few of these babies out to toss into a soup or warm pasta dish. Almost.

Roasted Tomatoes after

Last but not least, inspired by this fascinating blog post on using peach pits, I made a peach and basil infused simple syrup. What says summer more than peaches and basil?!

Basil and peach pits

I plan on drizzling this fragrant, light syrup into plain seltzer water or adding it to iced tea any time I need to feel like I’m sitting on the patio with the sun in my face. Here’s to summer…and being an ant!

Basil Peach Vanilla Syrup

Basil Peach Vanilla Simple Syrup

Inspired by BraveTart and Willi Galloway
Makes ~3 cups

True to its name, this syrup really couldn’t be easier. The only thing it requires is time. I let mine steep for about 24 hours, but you could have a perfectly yummy syrup in as little as 4-6 hours. It all depends on how strong you want it to be. This same formula could also be used for any number of delicious combinations!

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 4-6 peach pits
  • 1/2 vanilla bean

In a saucepan, stir together the water and sugar and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.

Crush and tear the basil leaves with your fingers to release their oils, and then stir them into the hot liquid. Add the peach pits and vanilla bean.

Cover and set aside to cool. If you are going to let it steep overnight, put it in the fridge. Once done steeping, strain with a fine mesh sieve.

Store the syrup in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

Rosemary Lemon Salt

From Willi Galloway
Makes 1 cup

This salt is addictive. Willi said it is delicious over popcorn, which I can’t wait to try. I’ve been using it to season almost every dish I’ve made in the past 10 days. It adds a bright kick to pasta, rice, roasted veggies, fish, you name it! As with the syrup above, this formula could be used for any number of herb combinations.

  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 1/2 cups rosemary
  • 1/2 cup thyme (preferably lemon)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest

Place the garlic and 2 tablespoons of the salt into a food processor. Pulse until the garlic is roughly chopped. Add in the rosemary and thyme and continue pulsing until the herbs are finely chopped and the mixture looks like sand.

In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the herb mixture with the remaining salt. Then spread it out onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and set aside, loosely covered with a clean cotton towel or paper towel, to dry for a few days to a week (until the herbs are completely dry).

Store in a cool, dry place (like your spice cabinet).

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A surfeit of strawberries

We recently found ourselves in possession of a half-flat of strawberries over here. How does one come to possess a half-flat of strawberries you might ask? Welllll, we might have been over-excited to finally see these little red jewels make their blushing debut at the farmers market, and we might have over-bought. I am not afraid of a challenge though, especially not one as delicious as using up six pints of strawberries in as many days.

half flat of strawberries

The first thing I did with the delicate, sweet berries, beside pop of few of them into my mouth, is mix them with some rhubarb, sugar, and cornstarch. I then put that mixture into some cute little ramekins and buried it under a buttery, slightly salty crumb topping. Into the oven they went where they baked into a jammy, stewy, deliciously unctuous crumble.

I halved this Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble recipe from 101cookbooks and split the goods into four personal-sized portions. Top with ice cream or whipped cream, of course.

strawberries!

After dessert, I was satiated enough to start thinking about other, non-dessert ways to use my cache of berries. And my thoughts went straight to breakfast. My go-to breakfast the past few months has been a bowl of Greek yogurt topped with defrosted frozen mixed berries. It’s healthy and just a little sweet. I could (and did), of course, add fresh strawberries to my yogurt, but I wanted something slightly more daring (I lead an exciting life).

First, I turned to this Rhubarb Compote from Cucina Nicolina. I’ve been making this compote on a weekly basis ever since rhubarb showed up in the market a month or two ago. This time, I substituted one stalk of the rhubarb for a half pint of strawberries and made a dreamy Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote that is just perfect swirled into my favorite yogurt.

compote

I wasn’t done with breakfast though. I also tucked some strawberries and my remaining rhubarb snugly into a parchment paper pouch, following this recipe from a recent Bon Appetit, and roasted them in a hot oven. They softened into a lightly sweetened slump that settles over a mound of morning yogurt like a thick, delicious blanket…the only blanket I might like better is the down comforter on my bed that I have to leave to eat said yogurt in the morning.

Almost halfway through the half-flat, I was gaining steam. Another issue of Bon Appetit (I was a couple behind) revealed a quick and easy Strawberry Jam recipe that did not require actual canning – no water bath, no pectin, no fuss. A shredded Granny Smith apple provides the thickening agent and the jam keeps in the fridge for two weeks – far longer than you will manage to keep it around, I assure you.

fixins

On the day I found myself with less than two pints left, I looked out my window to find another gray, wet, chilly Seattle day. Juneuary, the seasoned locals apparently call it. But not me. Me and my strawberries were going to make it feel like summer, come hell or high water (or incessant rain). To accomplish this feat of suspended disbelief, I turned to my friend Eve Fox and her recipe for childhood summers spent in the sun: Strawberry Mint Lemonade. I made a double batch.

strawberry lemonade

Less than a pint of strawberries left, and I had saved the best for last. You see, David has a weakness for biscuits. And I have a weakness for whipped cream (I will seriously just eat a bowl of it on its own if someone doesn’t hold me back). Strawberries + biscuits + whipped cream? That equals strawberry shortcake.

Not just any strawberry shortcake though. Weeks previously I had bookmarked the recipe for James Beard’s Strawberry Shortcake that Food52 was generous enough to share with the world. It has a secret ingredient. I always love the idea of a secret ingredient – an unexpected twist that makes a recipe unique and is passed down from generation to generation. My imagination of a secret ingredient and the story behind it rarely is satisfied by reality though. There are tons of recipes that say they have a secret ingredient, but it is something common sense that isn’t actually a secret at all. This is not one of those recipes. This secret ingredient is everything I want a secret ingredient to be – weird, unexpected, from a mom who discovered it years and years ago. And, most importantly, it totally makes a difference in the recipe!

strawberry shortcake!

These shortcakes are truly the best I’ve ever had. They are very rich, while at the same time being impossibly light. They have an extremely delicate crumb, while still holding together enough to be the vehicle you need to shovel strawberries and whipped cream into your face. See? The best. You will have to make them yourself to find out what the secret ingredient is…or just click on this link, but I promise you will want to make them yourself.

And thus ended my journey down a road paved with strawberries. I had used them all up. Sad! I think I will buy another half-flat this weekend…

strawberry mom and baby

Strawberry Recipes

If you find yourself in a similar position of overabundance this summer – or in the more rational position of having a pint or two of berries – you won’t be disappointed if you give one of these recipes a spin. What’s your favorite strawberry recipe?

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A soup worthy of chestnut season

Until recently I was at most mildly unaware of chestnuts. They are that thing people roast in that one Christmas carol, right? And the grocery store sells them in jars and they look like shriveled little brains. Had you asked me about chestnuts two months ago, that would have been the extent of my knowledge.

chestnut tree

Then sometime in September my boyfriend and I were walking our pup around the park near our house and we saw this green spiny thing on the ground. I wondered aloud what it was and stepped on it a couple times. Then we walked on. But noticed that as soon as we had walked away from the thing a woman walking slightly behind us quickly snatched it up and carried it covetously – and carefully – away. I was confused and a little intrigued, but I mostly forgot all about it.

chestnut burr

Until one day a couple weeks later when we were back at the park and realized that there were people…lots of people…milling around under a few of the trees looking at the ground. And I thought, ‘you know come to think of it those same people have been there the past few times we have come here. Hmm, how odd.’

So when we happened upon one of the spiny pods during that walk, we picked it up and took it home (it almost didn’t make it – we dropped it no less than 10 times – those suckers are really sharp!) We cracked it open at home with some heavy-duty gloves and discovered a chestnut inside. Ah ha.

chestnut in burr

Coincidentally, the next weekend at the farmers market we saw a booth selling the chestnuts still in their burrs (as I found out the spiny outer layer is called). And they were $10 per pound (!!) So, we got it then. People were swarming to our park, which has about five huge chestnut trees, to collect the chestnuts because they are apparently worth their weight in gold.

3 chestnuts in the hand, worth...

Now when we go to the park we keep an eye out for the fallen burrs. Note: we haven’t joined the crazies who from all appearances LIVE at the park and collect the chestnuts from dawn to dusk (ok, if they are feeding their families with the revenue from these chestnuts I will feel bad calling them crazy, but given the fact that the season is two months long each year, I really don’t think that’s the case). We have, however, managed to put away a respectable stash of chestnuts and I have been using them – sparingly! – on and in many fall dishes. They add a great texture and a subtly sweet yet earthy flavor, especially to soups.

chestnuts

Case in point, as part of my reinvigorated obsession with Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan I made a celery root and apple soup recently. It was simple and understated, but just delicious.

soup prep

I topped it with some of our hard-won chestnuts (lightly toasted) and we ate it for dinner with a simple salad and a hunk of fresh baguette from the farmers market. We felt so French. Not to mention smugly victorious about the chestnuts that we managed to snag from the “professional” gatherers in the park AND that we didn’t have to pay $10 a pound for!

use creme fraiche

Of course, the chestnuts did not come completely without a price, as anyone who has ever shelled fresh chestnuts knows. They are basically a pain in the butt and if I wasn’t getting them for free I wouldn’t bother.

If you happen upon some though, or want to go ahead and buy some fresh at the store to see what all of the fuss is about, let me give you a piece of advice: boil them instead of roasting them in the oven. They taste the same either way and are a lot easier to peel when they’re boiled. I provide some more detailed instructions for doing this below the soup recipe. Happy chestnut season!

yummy soup pretty bowl

Celery-Apple Soup

Adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan
Makes 4-6 servings

Dorie calls this recipe ‘Celery-Celery Soup’ because it uses both celery root and celery stalks. For me though, the sweet apple-ness was just as prevalent as the celery, so I am calling my adaptation celery-apple. Note that if you want to follow my lead and top this soup with fresh toasted chestnuts, make sure you boil and peel them before you start working on the soup…as I already lamented, it is a pain and takes a long time. If you want to use jarred chestnuts they would be scrumptious too – just crumble them up and toast them in a pan as the soup simmers.

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 celery stalks with leaves, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 med-large onions, chopped
  • 2 sweet apples (I used Gala), peeled, cored, and diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound celery root (2 fist-sized roots), peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 4 cups veggie broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup crème fraîche (optional…but you should really add it ‘cuz it makes things yummier)
  • 1/4 cup toasted chestnut pieces (optional)

Melt the butter in a large soup pot over low heat. Then toss in the celery, onions, and apples. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, for 5-7 minutes – until the vegetables are soft.

Add the celery root and stir everything together. Then add the herbs and broth, and bring to a boil.

Once it’s boiling, lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the celery root is soft enough to mash with the back of a spoon. At this point, pull out the bay leaf and the thyme twig (all the leaves will have likely come off).

Puree the soup – either in small batches in a food processor or blender, or all at once with an immersion blender.

Once the soup is smooth, stir in the crème fraîche and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle into bowls, and garnish with another dollop of crème fraîche (if you’re feeling decadent) and toasted chestnuts.

Serve immediately, but also save some for leftovers because this soup is even better the second day!

Boiled Chestnuts

Adapted from StartCooking.com

Set a large pot of water on the stove to boil.

Wipe the chestnuts off with a damp towel and set them on a cutting board, flat side down.

With a small, sharp knife cut an X in each chestnut. Make your cuts pretty big – this is the section you are going to use to peel away the skin once their cooked. Do not skip this step! The X allows the steam to escape while they are cooking, and if you don’t do it I am told that the chestnuts could explode, which no one wants. Also, please be safe – cushion the chestnut on a clean dish towel if it makes it easier for you to cut.

scored chestnuts

Boil the chestnuts for 15-20 minutes. Once you take them out, peel as soon as you are able to safely handle them – they are much easier to peel while they are still warm. I actually left half of them in the water until I had peeled the first half so that the second half would still be warm when I got to them.

chestnut skin

When peeling, make sure you are removing both layers of skin: there is a thick dark brown outer layer and a thin light brown under layer. As you peel the chestnuts will likely break apart a little, so make sure to have a bowl nearby to save the precious bits of peeled chestnuts.

Save in a container and keep in the refrigerator until you are ready to use.

pretty bowl

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