Artichoke and garlic

Creamy Artichoke Soup For Easter Brunch

Asparagus soup

I love the concept of serving a soup in a demitasse. It whets the appetite just enough for the next course. I worked in a place known for luxury that served every patron a small demitasse of chicken consommé. Perfect for the ladies that lunched, or just a soothing balm on a cold rainy day. When you start think of your Easter brunch ideas, dust off the collection of demitasse and fine tea cups you hardly use, and greet your guests with an elegant cup of soup to offer a warm welcome.

Artichoke and garlic

I had some artichokes that were screaming to be used in my vegetable bin after serving as models for an illustration. If you don’t have raw artichokes you can use canned bottoms or hearts. It will easier, but I love the process involved in this soup with roasting and coaxing the flavors. Don’t be afraid of the process in the kitchen. It can be very Zen . Use the recipe as inspiration and enjoy. I hope you enjoyed the featured illustration. Its one of many food illustrations I’m working on  for Coco Collection and a book project.

Creamy Artichoke Soup For Easter Brunch
Recipe type: Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
A creamy artichoke soup with roasted garlic and leeks.
  • 2 whole raw leeks
  • 2 whole raw artichokes
  • 1 large leek
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lemon
  • 4-5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 large russet potato
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • pink peppercorns crushed for garnish
  • kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • > and black pepper
  1. Break down the artichokes but slicing off tops and stems.
  2. Trim to get to the center. Halve and remove any fuzzy center( the choke)
  3. above the stem and purple leaves if any. You want the
  4. tender heart of the artichoke.
  5. Soak in cold water with half a
  6. lemon to prevent discoloration and browning.
  7. Slice entire leek ( white and green part) and soak I cold water to remove
  8. dirt and grit.
  9. In a roasting pan toss the artichokes and
  10. leeks with olive oil and the remaining half of lemon juice.
  11. Season with salt and pepper.
  12. Slice tip of garlic fist and drizzle with olive oil.
  13. Wrap in foil and roast with the other veggies.
  14. Roast on high at 450FPeel and boil the russet
  15. potato.
  16. When deeply browned, remove vegetable and start
  17. pureeing with the chicken stock.
  18. Squeeze the garlic out of its papery skin and pulse with the other vegetables.
  19. Peel the skins off boiled potato.
  20. Add the potato to the blender for puree.
  21. Now take a strainer and strain the fibrous soup
  22. through a fine mesh strainer , forcing the liquid out with a
  23. stirring motion, with a pot or bowl underneath.
  24. You can use a food mill too.
  25. Once all strained, transfer the soup into a clean pot.
  26. Simmer on low.
  27. Add heavy cream.
  28. Reheat gently.
  29. Garnish with pink peppercorns and a bit of minced chives if you have some.


Cellar Soup,Thanksgiving Mishaps,and a $50 Wal-Mart Giveaway

It’s hard to believe our national day of thanks is next week. I chuckle when hear people stressing about, what to me is , a day of cooking for pure love and joy. And truth be told,  I prefer a cozy lazy holiday with just Certain Someone and I to indulge in good food, with no drama or timeline pressures. Not everyone has that luxury. This post is about mishaps on the big day. I can’t say I’ve had a serious mishap on Thanksgiving , but I’ve had them when entertaining for large crowds.The most recent ones have occurred over this past summer with the new  gas grill. We had two dinners planned for very important clients and colleagues of Certain Someone’s.  No one except the repair man on the adjacent property will ever know how my special juniper  cured pork belly were burnt to a crisp black ash.  I mistakenly left the temp on high on one direct burner as I rushed downstairs several floors below, to prep the other courses. The poor repairman kept knocking on the terrace door believing it was an one level apartment and I couldn’t hear him. By the time I came up to check on my supposedly slow grilled bellies, they were a lump of black coal and the man was smoked out while trying to do bis job on the  terrace next door. He didn’t even turn the knob to cut it off. I panicked for a second, and went to plan B, taking a frozen belly out , cleaning the grill, and starting over. The party and the food went well. Lesson to this is font sweat the small stuff and just carry on. It wasn’t the first time it happened. Imagine a similar scenario a month before with my hand made sausages.No matter how much you plan and stress, mistakes happen.
We chefs and cooks  take our successes and failures personally, because we put so much into what we do. But the key is to learn from the mistakes and move forward. Also, to be open to learning and  receiving tips from others. One Thanksgiving I roasted a gorgeous  crispy goose. I like to change it up from traditional turkey. Everyone was curious about my offering and how it would turn out. An older aunt called me the next day and asked me for the goose fat. I was perplexed as to why she would.want all that fat. This was years ago, and while I was  a good cook, not where I am now.She was quite upset that I discarded all that precious golden goose fat. Seems old southern folk lore  has uses such things as remedies, and not to mention cooking other great dishes . Goose or duck fat potatoes anyone? I learned a few things  from that incident . So listen to the wisdom.of your older elders, don’t stress, pay attention to details, pour a glass of wine and relax.Remember that scene from the movie Eat Pray Love when she prepares  a Thanksgiving for her Italian  friends . They cut into the eagerly awaited turkey and it’s frozen inside? No worries. They all chilled, put the bird back into the oven,drank, talked, and woke up to a marvelous turkey breakfast. That’s the spirit.

Tell me about your mishaps or approaches to holiday cooking. I will draw a winner for a $50 giftcard from Wal-Mart to help you with your holiday preparations. You have until the 21st of November to enter. Help spread the word. Who couldn’t use $50 with these high food costs?

If you want to read about some more Thanksgiving mishaps, check here. Wal- Mart has put together a great page of mishaps, interesting tidbits, and tips.

So now on to the cooking…
Here is a lovely restorative soup to serve at the big celebration. I call it Cellar soup, as it uses all sorts of root vegetables and apple’s to create a creamy rich soup.  I made this , froze it and gave quarts away to friends and family.They looovvvved it. Even Certain Someone who resisted because it sounded too healthy for him, gave it a thumbs up.

Cellar Soup
Recipe type: Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
A rich creamy soup made from root vegetables.
  • 1 Acorn Squash peeled ,seeded, and chopped
  • 3 small apples peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 3 small yellow onion chopped
  • 1 sweet potato peeled and chopped
  • 3 parsnips peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery root peeled and sliced
  • 6 leaves fresh sage
  • 1 branch of rosemary
  • Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • 2 teaspoons Cumin
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons Grape seed oil or olive oil
  • 12 cups water
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. In a large Dutch oven, toss all the prepped ingredients and spiced with the oil.
  3. Roast until caramelized for approximately 45 minutes or more. Check frequently and adjust heat if necessary.
  4. Remove from oven and set atop stove .
  5. Turn heat to high.
  6. Add the water. Bring to boil.
  7. Reduce heat to simmer.
  8. Remove cinnamon stick.Set aside.
  9. Take an immersion blender and pulse until smooth and pureed.
  10. Add cinnamon stick back to to soup.
  11. Add chicken stock.
  12. Simmer for another 40 minutes until flavors merge, and soup is a nice creamy consistency.


I’ve been counting my enormous blessings this season, and want you readers to know how thankful I am for your support and encouragement, especially during these years of  change.

Thank You.
Disclosure. Wal-Mart is sponsoring this post with $50 gift card provision’s for myself and the selected winner. My opinions are my own.


Leberknödel (Liver Dumplings) with Chicken and Forest Mushroom Soup

In Chicago right now, you can feel the crispness in the air as fall arrives. It teases with some sharp rays of sun, but it’s undeniable Autumn is here.With the turn of season, energy may lag, and colds are common. Soups are craved more to cure what ails us. One of favorite soups in the world is a Leberknödel (liver dumpling )soup. I first had Leberknödel soup in Vienna, Austria and always order it at any German type of restaurant we go to. I love the comfort of a rich dumpling swimming in a crystal clear  flavorful soup. There really is nothing more perfect. While many people don’t like liver, I have never met anyone who doesn’t love Leberknödel , when given a try. To make the flavor milder, soak the liver in milk before prep, and it may be more agreeable to you. Regardless liver ( chicken , pork, or beef) is chock full or nutrition and iron, not to mention inexpensive. Because the liver is ground, is the reason I think many people love this soup as opposed to a big chunk of liver . Texture, as well as presentation is paramount in food.

Dumplings can be tricky, so patience is required. There are many techniques for them and the German people ,especially the Bavarians, have quite a repertoire of them. Traditionally Leberknödelsuppe is served in a clear beef consomme. Or the dumpling can be served on the side with sauerkraut. Certain Someone likes to take leftover potato dumplings, slice  and fry them, which would be amazing with these Leberknödel  as well. I researched several variations for  Leberknödel , and added my own twist. The mixture is very loose, and rather than fortify them with more bread crumbs , I used the more durable semolina to add texture along with the egg, ground liver,fried onions,  and soaked bread rolls. I keep a bag of chicken carcass and odd and ends in the freezer which I decided to use for my soup base along with root vegetables. A rich broth was formed. I added my favorite dried Polish Mushrooms to the soup with the  soaking water. All to simmer some more, strain, degrease, and then clarify with a raft of egg whites and shells ( another method is to use the egg whites shells, lean ground meat , mirepoix, and tomatoes) to remove any impurities and render a beautiful  crystal clear broth. The color is deepened because of the woodsy forest mushrooms.

Leberknödel (Liver Dumplings) with Chicken and Forest Mushroom Soup
Recipe type: soup
Liver dumpling soup
  • Assorted chicken pieces of your choice ( or leftover carcass, and other parts of chicken )
  • 1 red onion
  • a few stalks of celery
  • 4 carrots chopped
  • Approx 12 cups of water
  • 3-4 egg whites and shell
  • salt and pepper
  • Dumplings
  • 1 2oz pack of dried Polish Forest mushrooms
  • 4-5 stale kaiser rolls or other type of old bread
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 red onion minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons parsley chopped
  • 1 egg beaten
  • grate of fresh nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 piece of raw liver (3/4 to ½ lb)( and milk for soaking optional)
  • 1 cup or more of semolina as needed depending on moisture of dumpling mixture.
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. To make the soup /consomme...
  2. Roast the chicken and root vegetables at 375 F until golden.Use a pan that can transfer to the range for additional cooking.
  3. Soak the dried mushrooms in hot water and let sit covered while chicken is roasting.
  4. Add water , salt and pepper,mushrooms and soaking liquid,and continue to simmer for approximate 2 hours. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
  5. Strain off solids and reserve to cool. You may pour in the refrigerator to allow the grease to congeal and later skim off.
  6. Add the strained broth to a stock pan.
  7. Mix in egg whites and shells. Bring to a boil and reduce to a low simmer. The egg whites and shells form a raft that will form at the top and capture all the impurities and solids that were not strained out .Do not disturb or stir the raft , but continue to simmer for about 30 minutes more.
  8. Carefully strain the soup, raft and shells into a fine sieve lined double with cheesecloth. You should have a very clear broth. Set aside.
  9. To make the dumplings...
  10. Soak liver in milk if desired for at least 30 minutes if desired to make taste milder.
  11. Soak the torn apart bread rolls in the milk.
  12. In a separate bowl grind the raw beef liver in grinder, food processor, or with an immersion blender. Remove any connective tissue.
  13. Wring out any excess milk from the soaked bread .
  14. Add the ground liver, beaten egg, baking powder, grate of nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
  15. At this point determine of the mixture needs more bulk and gradually add semolina to form a consistency that can loosely hold its shape in a ball once formed with with or oiled hands. You don't want the mixture too dry, but wet enough to hold its shape.
  16. Carefully shape dumpling , no larger than a walnut as they will expand in the water.
  17. Drop the dumpling carefully into salted boiling water. You may want to test one to see if they hold its shape while cooking.
  18. Add to clear hot soup and serve.
Makes approximately 25-28 dumplings. Soup quantity varies according to how much broth you yield from ingredients used.


Chilled Summer Borscht

Summer has arrived, and I’m getting inspired again in the kitchen, as you can see from my recent blog posts. This weeks vegetable box inspired this recipe. Beets with the loveliest greens atop them were the centerpiece of box. Pickling was out of the question and I got to thinking of  the refreshing chilled soups you find particularly in Eastern Europe ( Hungary and Russia). I remembered I loved the beautiful beet based winter borscht with its beautiful ruby-red sheen. So what if  I made a more tourmaline hued  like borscht  with a cream base ,seasoned with fresh crisp apples, dill, and cucumber? A beautiful starter , with crisp bright flavors perfect for summer brunch ?

I played around and this is what I got. You will find it light yet filling. The perfect chilled soup for a lovely summer day. As Borscht is really nothing but a seasonal soup ,play around with your produce and combos.  I used chicken stock as a base, however vegetable stock can be used as well.

Chilled Summer Borscht
Recipe type: soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
A chilled soup.
  • 2 apples peeled , cored and diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 red onion diced
  • 2 plum tomatoes chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dill
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 beets with leaves intact
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
  • fresh dill weed and thinly sliced cucumber for garnish.
  1. In a heavy bottomed stock pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  2. Add diced apples, carrots, and red onion.
  3. Saute on medium high for about 10 minutes until the vegetables become soft and onions translucent.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, and dill.
  5. Add chopped tomatoes.
  6. Saute for 5 for minutes.
  7. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  8. Take an immersion blender and puree the soup mixture.
  9. Add the sugar and stir in. Continue to let the soup simmer.
  10. Cut off the greens of the beets and chop up. Add to simmering soup mixture.
  11. With a vegetable peeler , skin the beets and chop into small pieces.
  12. In a small fry pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  13. Add the chopped beets and saute for about 10 minutes on medium high, until they are softened.
  14. Remove from heat and add the beets to the soup mixture.
  15. Quickly blend the beets into the soup with the immersion blender.
  16. Turn off the soup. You don't want to overcook the beets once added to the soup as the color will darken.
  17. Let the coup cool down.
  18. Add the sour cream and Sherry Vinegar to the soup. Blend with immersion blender.
  19. Strain soup through a fine mesh wire strainer. There will be pulp. Push out the liquid from the pulp. You want a fine strained liquid, without the thick pulp.
  20. Chill the soup overnight or for at least 6 hours.
  21. Serve cold with chopped fresh dill garnish and thinly sliced cucumber.
  22. *Soup may separate after a few hours while chilling. Just whip up with blender again before serving.
Equipment A fine mesh wire strainer. Immersion Blender You can make this the day ahead. It will keep for a few days in the refrigerator. Serve in small cordial or shooter glasses or bowls. Servings may vary depending on how served.

Tomato Stelline and Escarole Soup with Anchovy Toast. Kiddie Soup with a Grown Folks Taste.

Life is frantically busy these days. A co worker asked me today , what was wrong, and why I’m so quiet lately. I snapped back and told her to walk in  my shoes the past few weeks and try being fun and sociable. I think she wanted something more to be wrong, and was taken aback. You can’t be everything to everybody, and I’m not even going to try.  By the time I come home from my varied schedule and commute, I force myself to cook something decent.  Because I owe  myself that.The thought of what I’m going to create that night takes the edge of of crazy day.It centers me. The dish need not be elaborate, as most times I’m doing a mental inventory of whats on hand. If I have to, I make a quick stop at the store for extra ingredients. Sometimes I just want a soup. I’m very picky about soup, and am never really satisfied with the offerings around me when out to lunch. I like to be creative with soup and have good clean, yet strong flavors. I whipped up this soup in my head and knew it would be a quick easy pantry type of meal for Certain Someone and myself  . One bite of it took me back to those cans of Chef Boyardee, when I  was a kid. Granted it tastes better, but the childish tiny Stelline pasta was a very Proustian moment for me. The childhood flavor was ramped up with adult tastes and textures of escarole. And then the clincher was toast rounds with a divine anchovy butter. Can you say heavenly satisfying. If your not a fan of anchovy’s, be pedestrian and make plain old garlic toast ( Certain Someones option). That will leave more anchovy toast for the connoisseurs.  Give yourself about 45 minutes to prepare .I cheated a bit with  a chicken soup base. But of course homemade stock is better, if you have it laying around. It’s worth the little extra effort, after a hard days work.

Tomato Stelline and Escarole Soup with Anchovy Toast. Kiddie Soup with a Grown Folks Taste.
Recipe type: soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
A childlike tomato soup, with grown up tastes.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup of diced carrots
  • ½ red onion minced
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp of Vegeta ( optional seasoning mix)
  • Dried Italian Herbs
  • 1 28 oz can peeled stewed tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp chicken soup base and 6 cups of water or
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 head of Escarole washed and chopped
  • 1½ cups Stelline Pasta
  • salt and pepper to taste.
  • Baguette cut into rounds about ½ inch thick
  • 4-5 tbsp of unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp of anchovy paste
  • dried parsley
  1. In a large stock pot, add the olive oil. Heat on medium high.
  2. Add the chopped carrots, onion, garlic. Saute on medium heat for a few minutes until softened.
  3. Add the Vegeta (optional) and dried Italian Herbs . Stir.
  4. Add the tomatoes and the liquid. Pulse with a immersion blender until pureed.
  5. Add either the chicken soup base and water or the chicken stock.
  6. Pulse again with the immersion blender until completely pureed.
  7. Bring up to slight boil, and then reduce heat to simmer.
  8. Add the escarole. Simmer until wilted.
  9. During the last 10 minutes of cooking add the Stelline pasta.
  10. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper or more Vegeta.
  11. While the soup is simmering , preheat oven to 375 F.
  12. Cut the baguette into rounds.
  13. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  14. Mix the butter at room temperature with the anchovy paste until spreadable.
  15. Spread butter onto bread .
  16. Sprinkle dried parsley flakes.
  17. Bake , watching carefully until golden. You may raise the temp slightly to 425 the last few minutes to ensure golden crispness.
  18. Serve with the soup while hot.