Cucumber and Yogurt Soup

A light, refreshing cold soup for hot summer days.

3 tablespoons mint
3 tablespoons dill, plus chopped sprigs to finish
2 tablespoons tarragon
2 cucumbers, peeled and roughly chopped
1 cup yogurt
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup walnuts, plus 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts to finish
1 cup stale breadcrumbs
½ cup olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon to finish
6 scallions, roughly chopped
2-4 peeled garlic cloves, depending on your taste
juice of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
sprinkle cayenne pepper
salt, to taste
sprinkle sumac, to finish, optional

Add mint, dill, and tarragon to food processor. Pulse. Add remaining ingredients. Chill. Portion into bowls. Top with dill, walnuts, olive oil, and sumac, if desired. Serve.

Shrimp and Chouriça Soup

This Shrimp and Chouriça Soup is spicy and smoky from the chouriça and full of umami from the shrimp, including homemade shrimp stock.

I made this with chouriça, as opposed to chouriço. The stuffing of chouriça can be similar to chouriço, but chouriça is made specifically from the Bísaro pig. The Bísaro pig is indigenous to Portugal and feed with a mixture of farm crops and chestnuts. I picked up chouriça transmontana, which is from the district of Guarda in the northeast of Portugal at the Spanish border.

This recipe starts with an easy shrimp stock. A good stock is a big starting point to a great soup. Making your own stock is cheaper, and it tastes better. If you want to shorten the time on this recipe, you can buy peeled shrimp and premade seafood stock.

I added piri piri chilis from Uganda; they are pretty hot. With the five piri piri I used, it came out with a mild spiciness. Thai chilis are a good substitute. Adjust peppers as desired.

I used a total of 1 teaspoon of salt to the soup, but I have a high salt tolerance so I suggest you taste it for yourself.

Smoked paprika adds a nice dimension to the dish, but regular paprika will do in a pinch.

Vinho verde is a great wine to use in this recipe, along with serving with it. It’s light and fresh with a high acidity.

Makes 2 servings


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White Bean and Chouriço Soup with Garlic Bread

White Bean and Chouriço Soup with Bread is a delicious easy soup that is more than the sum of its parts. Smoky spicy chouriço is added to white beans with tomatoes and roasted sweet red bell peppers. The bread soaks up the delicious broth.

Homemade beans make a big difference in this simple recipe, plus you have the juices to add to the soup broth. I usually cook a whole bag of beans at once and freeze whatever is left to save time so I have some already cooked whenever I need them. Of course you could make a big pot of beans especially for this recipe. It is that good. I like my beans soft and almost falling apart to impart creaminess, but cook your beans according to your own tastes.

For the sausage I used Alentejana chouriço (chorizo in Spanish) which is made from Alentjana pork.  Also known as black pork, it is a specialty found only in the Alentejo region in southern Portugal. The pig is fattened on acorns, giving it a nutty flavor. Also the fat from the acorns is monounsaturated, like olive oil, so it is healthier than other pork. Chouriço is smoky and flavored with wine and garlic. The one I used was not heavy on the paprika and not very fatty; it reminded me most of andouille sausage, which could be used as a substitute in this recipe. Although it can be eaten raw, I cook it in the soup to add flavor.

Also finding another use for old bread is always handy. Adding bread to soup to give it more heft and texture has been done since ancient times. In this recipe the bread is rubbed with garlic, dried in the oven, put in the bottom of bowls, and soup is ladled on top, like reverse croutons. The bread absorbs the juices, but it does not dissolve in the soup making bites of broth soaked bread. If you want a thicker soup you could sprinkle in breadcrumbs, or if you want it really thick you can toss in chunks of crustless bread with the broth and allow it to cook until the bread dissolves.


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Mushroom, Greens, and Chickpea Soup

The professional kitchen I worked in was awesome. Lots of room and if you were there at the right time not too crowded. My American kitchen at home was small by newer standards; people would comment about how I was able to do so much stuff in it, but I had a great stovetop, quality pots and pans I amassed over twenty years, and lots of kitchen tools. Now there is a small electric stovetop which does not respond to my wants no matter how much I dial the numbers up or down.

Our flat in Porto is lovely. There’s lots of light, hardwood floors, and plenty of space, but our kitchen is tiny. There is barely room for a cutting board at the side of the stove. While our stuff is being shipped over and is still someplace in the middle of the Atlantic, I have: a small frying pan, a small sauce pan, a big soup pot, a paring knife, a serrated knife, a vegetable peeler, and one small cutting board. I don’t even have a cheese grater. I bought some pre-grated Parmesan the other day and it was horrible.

We bought the cheapest pans we could find at the closest department store. They are awful.  They bulge up in the middle so that no matter how much oil you put in there’s a gap in the center it can never cover. After this I firmly recommend going out of your way to hit up Ikea. At least their pans have flat bottom and are good quality for the price.

But cooking must go on. For a couple of weeks while we dealt with bureaucracy, I got by with roasting things and frying some steaks. Now I am focusing on the kitchen again. While I adjust, I’m cooking food that doesn’t require too many tools or too much space.

This recipe of Mushroom, Greens, and Chickpea Soup is light, healthy vegetarian fare that only requires one large pot, a cutting board, a vegetable peeler, and whatever knife you have.

You can use whatever greens are handy. For my version I used turnip tops (called nabiça in Portuguese). Some greens will require less time, some more time depending on what you have. Spinach will take very little time and you’ll want to give the rest of the ingredients time to meld before putting it in; collard greens will need longer. If you are not sure, the best thing to do is taste them to see if they have softened to you liking.

Of course you can use homemade cooked chickpeas instead of a can, but don’t feel any shame if you too busy/ have not planned ahead and need use canned chickpeas. If you are inclined, you can hold onto the water. It is called aquafaba and can be used as an egg substitute in vegan baking.

Mushroom, Greens, and Chickpea Soup


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Christmas Menu and Recipes 2010

We love to have a big Christmas feast, one last umph of productivity before a chill holiday. This was probably the fourth one.  Many these recipes were first timers, including two from the Real Cajun cookbook by Donald Link, owner of Cochon’s in New Orleans.

Friends contributed some real treats.  Steve brought a lovely smoked salmon, fish being one of his specialties.  Leigh Ellen made some sweet and salty emmantaler tarts drizzled with honey.  Ted brought a lovely squash pie.

Lots of food, lots of drinks, lots of fun.  Thanks everyone!

Anchovies and Piquillo Peppers

I always like to look to Mark Bittman for simple but tasty recipes.  He has done several 101 Simple . . . columns which are always good for inspiration.  His 101 Simple Appetizers is especially useful since I am always looking for new amuse bouche ideas.

For this dish just roll white anchovies in piquillo peppers and stick a toothpick through them.  The strong flavor of the white anchovies and pickled peppers hold meld together into a sweet salty spicy taste even anchovy haters might enjoy. Just the thing to tickle your tastebuds.

Raised Pork Pie

This recipe is from Meat by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.  This was my second time making a raised pork pie and I did find the hot crust pastry to be an easy success.  One thing I learned from my previous attempt is to make the jelly the day before since it will take an amazingly long time to cool down.  The Alton Brown method of sticking a large plastic bag full of ice cubes and leaving it until they all melted helped reduces the cooling down time and has the added benefit of fat sticking to the bag for easy removal.

Initially a Riedel 8″ springform pan was used but it had to be increased to a 9″ so he must use a deep pan for his version.  A 1″ round cookie cutter was placed in the middle to make the insertation of jelly easy and lets you see when the jelly has set.

I found the odd bits of pig needed at B&W Meat Mart.

Even people intially weary of eating cold bits of pork incased in gelatin loved it and I am sure when meat pies catch on amongst American tastes they will be vastly popular. It is also great for a picnic.

Get the recipe here.

Roasted Chestnut Soup

Another Mark Bittman recipe.  We wanted a change from our standard Gruyere Pumpkin soup, delicious though it is.  Bittman is correct about fresh chestnuts not needing anything to prop them up.  Important to note here that chestnuts are more perishable than your usual nut.  Put them in a breathable container with a damp towel in the fridge and don’t buy them too early.  There aren’t many ingredients to this dish so homemade chicken stock is essential to success.  I recommend a good quality butter such as Kerrygold over the olive oil.  Get the recipe here.

Smoked Turkey Stuffed with Boudin

This recipe is from Real Cajun by Donald Link.  A great recipe which deserves its own page as Sprydle has demonstrated here.

Chinese Spiced Christmas Goose

This is the second year I’ve done this dish and although I love the flavour I’ve had a repeated problem of the honey burning on the skin before my goose is cooked.  It does flake right off but it detracts from the beauty of your bird.  I would skip the glaze next time.  Gordon Ramsay’s Christmas Goose

We ordered our goose from the fabulous Pete’s Fine Meats and it was the meatiest goose we’ve had yet.

Goose Fat Roasted Potatoes

This recipe is a combination of techniques learned due to an obsession with perfect roast potatoes.  Horribly unhealthy I’m sure but it’s a once a year treat and no matter how many you make there are never enough to go around.

Peel potatoes and cut into triangular slices about two inches across thickest bit.  Place in a bowl of cold water and change out water until it is no longer cloudy.  Put in a large pot of boiling water for 4 minutes.  Drain well.  Put back in hot pot (this will get them nice and dry so they roast properly).  Place lid on pot and shake vigorously so the potatoes are a little broken at the edge.  Place in a pan of very hot goose fat you have taken from the roasting goose.  Check often.  Make sure the potatoes are not sticking to the bottom of the roasting dish but wait until they are golden brown before turning. When golden brown take out of oven.  Remove potatoes from pan and place on paper towels to soak up excess grease and salt immediately.

If you want your potatoes to be even more potatoey place peeled potato skins in a soup sock and add to boiling pot.  This also works for mashed potatoes.

Sister State Green Bean Casserole

This another recipe from Real Cajun by Donald Link.  The simpler version assembled from canned green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and French’s French Fried Onions in the can are ubiquitos in the southeast Texas-Louisiana region.  Do yourself a favor and try this delicious uptown version.   Get the recipe.

Roasted Parsnips

David Tanis describes the flavor of parsnips as “a heady cross between butternut squash and chestnuts.” He is right and this his technique.  Quarter parsnips and cut out the hard core.  Make them simply roasted with olive oil, sea salt, and fresh ground pepper until lightly browned, about 45 minutes.  If you have a sweet tooth you could instead toss them with equal parts maple syrup and vegetable oil, which I’ve done in the past and people do love.  Either way your guests will ask you what that heavenly vegetable is.

Cranberry Sauce

A cheaty recipe I came across a few years ago.

1 cup cranberries

1 cup sugar

1 cup orange juice

Combine ingredients.  Bring to boil on stovetop.  Simmer until cranberries burst.

Sage and Onion Stuffing

Delicious traditional British dish (although this version is not to be found in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management).  Use good bread crumbs and stock.  Can be prepped right up until baking day before. Here it is.

Squash Pie with Graham Cracker Crust

A great recipe from the clever Alton Brown.  Ted substituted acorn squash for the baking pumpkin.  The crust is fabulous.  He also whipped some cream with a bit of Calvados to top it off.

Christmas Pudding

Paul’s Christmas Pudding website taught me so much about making a great Christmas pudding.  This was my third attempt and the most successful.  My favorite “Why didn’t I think of that?” tip is to use a trivet.  This prevented uneven cooking and cracking. Thank you, Paul!

Not finding true suet I used the Atora light shredded vegetable suet which worked fine.  Paul strongly advises against this, but apparently when you do find an American butcher to give you a special order of suet it will contain bits of meat which aren’t desirable in pudding.

Yes, it is a heavy dish to end a big meal but it’s delicious.  And I can’t resist a dessert you light on fire.

Hard Sauce

To go with the pudding.  You need some butter and sugar to cut the richness.

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup Cognac or brandy (I like to use Cointreau)

Beat butter on high until fluffy.  Lower speed and add confectioners’ sugar. When the sugar is incorporated, set the speed back to high. Slowly add the brandy 1 and beat until combined.  Transfer the sauce to a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Beer of the Evening Anchor Christmas 2006

Ray generously shared this vintage with us.  Unfortunately Anchor doesn’t make their beer spiced as strongly as they used to which makes for better drinking the year it’s released but disappointing for those of us who like to age and compare the vintages.   Flavors of clove, ginger, and pine have held up nicely in this brew.

Spicy Benny

Homemade Ginger Beer and Benedictine

Okay so first you have to make the ginger beer, but it’s easy to do and delicious and what you get at the store doesn’t even come close.  You’ll want to always have it on hand.  Just follow these instructions here.  Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall teaches us something once again.  Caster sugar is sold in the US as superfine sugar.  DeFalco’s recommends champagne yeast.  And all you need to know about ginger beer culture is explained by Five Go Mad in Dorset.

8 ounces homemade ginger beer

1.5 ounces Benedictine

Splash of bitters

Serve over ice in a rocks glass.


Tastes just like it sounds.  Very Christmasy.

3 ounces Bailey’s

3 ounces Domaine de Canton

Shake with ice and strain into martini glass.