Pea Soup (Hernerakkaa)

Pea soup.  It’s something you either love or hate.  Pea soup is something you will find in almost every Finnish cookbook.  In The Finnish Cookbook by Beatrice Ojakangas she calls pea soup hernerakkaa.  Interestingly, in Finland it is a traditional Thursday supper followed by baked pancakes with homemade jam for dessert.  Many of the pea soup recipes I read call for adding a couple dollops of whipped cream just before serving.  Finnish pea soup is also served with a side of spicy mustard and that is added at the table based on personal taste.  Some of the Finnish pea soup recipes included meat, others did not.  Pea soup is one of my dad’s favorites and mine as well.  My immediate family eats it but I’m not sure it ranks in their top five soup choices.  I say my immediate family because I’m quite certain none of my brothers would eat it.  My daughter posted a picture of their homemade pea soup a week or so ago and I decided I needed to make a pot.  I had a beautiful, meaty pork hock in the freezer and a bag of Michigan split peas so I was all set.  I decided to make my soup in the pressure cooker but I first cooked my ham shank which was a good decision.

Split peas do not require soaking.  Just put them in a colander and rinse them well.

Ingredients:

Pork hock or ham bone

1 pound of split peas

4 cups of water

4 cups of chicken broth

3 T butter

1 medium onion finely diced

1 cup of finely diced carrots

1 cup of finely diced celery

3 or 4 cloves of garlic minced

1 cup of diced potato (peeled and rinsed)

2 bay leaves

salt and pepper to taste

I used my electric pressure cooker which I think works great for dishes like this.  I put the pork hock in the cooker, added 4 cups of water and set it on high pressure for 20 minutes and allowed the cooker to release naturally.

The meat fell off the bone and I had 4 cups of excellent broth to start my soup.

Heat the 3 tablespoons of butter in the pressure cooker using the saute setting.  Saute the onion, carrots, and celery for 2-3 minutes until tender.  Add the garlic and saute for another minute.

Add the diced meat and potato.

Add the peas that you’ve rinsed well, the bay leaves, the 4 cups of pork broth and 2 cups of the chicken broth.

Set the pressure canner for 20 minutes on high pressure.  Do a quick release.

Scoop out a little for a taste.  Add additional salt and pepper if needed.

I added 2 more cups of chicken broth at this point.  Leave the pressure cooker setting on warm until you’re ready to serve.  Ladle into bowls and serve with homemade croutons or crusty bread.  Maybe the next time I make pea soup I’ll whip up some heavy cream and stir a good size dollop in each bowl.  And put the spicy mustard out for an authentic Finn bite.

NOTE:  Once this sits over night the flavors are even better but it also thickens even more.  You could slice the soup!  Prior to serving the leftovers stir in additional broth or water.  The next time I make this I may use a quarter less peas.

You can make this in a dutch oven on top of the stove if you don’t have a pressure cooker or instant pot.  I would still recommend starting the ham hock first.

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Four Bean Salad

We’ve all made 3-Bean Salad in the past or at least seen it on salad bars.  It has the mild pickled taste that most people like and it is easy to throw together.  I first tasted this particular version of the salad when a friend brought it over and we shared a small dish with our lunch.  This salad has an extra bean and a little twist that gives it a unique taste.  I coudn’t put my finger on it until my friend sent me the recipe and I realized it was the toasted sesame oil.  This is now my new favorite bean salad.

Ingredients:

1 15oz can of black beans

1 15oz can of garbanzo beans

1 15oz can of kidney beans

1 15oz can of green beans (I used a pint of my home canned)

1 small onion sliced thin (sweet or red)

3/4 cup of sugar

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup toasted sesame oil

salt and pepper to taste

Ok.  This is pretty simple.  Open the 4 cans of beans and drain.

Whisk together the sugar, oils and vinegars.

In a large bowl combine the beans and sliced onion.  Add the dressing and toss.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sample some, of course.

Refrigerate and serve chilled.  If you need a passing dish for a potluck or a simple side for a barbeque this salad is perfect and so easy to make.

Enjoy!

My friend’s recipe included 1/2 tsp of tarragon.  I omitted it because it is not one of my favorite herbs.  But if it’s a favorite of yours, by all means add it.  James Beard, a very famous chef and cookbook author, is quoted as saying, “I believe that if ever I had to practice cannibalism, I might manage if there were enough tarragon around.”  That quote doesn’t make me like it any more.  Tarragon is one of the herbs considered essential in French cooking.  I used to think I was part French until I sent my DNA to Ancestory.com.     Perhaps my dislike of tarragon should have been my first clue that I’ve no French in my DNA. And I think this recipe is great without the tarragon.

NOTE:  You can change up your beans based on personal preference or what you have on hand.  I have a friend who dislikes kidney beans so she could substitute butter beans, cannalini beans or navy beans.

Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Pasta Salad

Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato is one of our favorite sandwiches.  Combining all of those ingredients in a salad had to be a good idea.  A perfect accompaniment to burgers or sausages on the grill.  Most recently I served it as a side dish to barbecued beef brisket.  My daughter always says bacon and butter make everything taste better.  She’s right.

Ingredients:

1 pound of dry pasta (your choice)

1 pound bacon

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 T minced shallots

3 T minced fresh basil

2 T cider vinegar

1 T sugar

3 T bacon drippings (cooled to room temperature)

salt and pepper to taste

4 cups of lettuce (I used baby kale and arugula)

4 cups cherry tomatoes halved

Cook your pasta according to package instructions.  Once it’s cooked shock it in ice water to stop the cooking.  Set aside to drain.

Cook your bacon until it is crispy.  Drain it on paper towel and set aside 3 T of the drippings.  Allow the drippings to cool to room temperature before adding them to the dressing.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, shallots, basil, cider vinegar, sugar, and bacon drippings.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  I whisk it in a large mixing bowl because that becomes my salad vessel.

With the dressing on the bottom of the bowl layer the remaining ingredients.

Pasta first, followed by the cherry tomatoes.

Add your salad greens.  I chop the bacon and put it in a zip lock until the salad is ready to serve.  That keeps a little more of the crunch on the bacon.

When you’re ready to serve the salad toss all the ingredients together and enjoy.

NOTE:  You can use your favorite pasta, or whatever you have on hand.  Diced green onions or a little red onion can be substituted for the shallots.  And chopped romaine or even iceberg lettuce, if that’s what you enjoy, works equally well.  The fresh basil is a bonus and adds a great flavor to the salad.  As with most recipes you can customize this based on your personal preferences.

ENJOY!

Potato Salad

Today is our friend Joyce’s annual 4th of July party.  She loves to entertain and is a natural at making people feel welcome and comfortable.  And she LOVES feeding people.  She makes the main dishes…her famous lemon breaded chicken, meatballs, and sauerkraut with several different kinds of sausage.  People bring dishes to pass and today I’m making potato salad.

I have never been a big fan of potato salads.  But I do like this recipe.  This is not the traditional mayonnaise, mustard and egg potato salad most of us are familiar with.  This salad is perfect  for hot days when we all worry about having to keep mayonnaise based foods adequately chilled so as not to poison our guests.  Actually this salad tastes best served at room temperature.  Lots of veggies make this salad colorful and marginally healthier.

Salad Ingredients:

5# Yukon gold or redskin potatoes

1# green beans

3 sweet bell peppers (one each red, yellow and orange)

2 bunches green onions

4-5 stalks of celery

Dressing Ingredients:

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

2 T whole grain mustard

2 T Franks hot sauce

2 tsp salt

I leave the skin on the potatoes.  Cut the potatoes into potato salad size pieces.  Rinse them well and cook until tender.  Blanch the green beans and set aside.  While the potatoes are cooking rough chop all of the vegetables.

You want to dress this salad while the potatoes are still warm so they absorb the dressing.

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together.

Put all of the rough chopped vegetables in a large mixing bowl.  Add the drained, still warm potatoes to the mixing bowl and pour on the dressing.  Gently toss all the ingredients together.

While this salad is good cold it is really best served warm or at room temperature.  It’s a bit reminiscent of German potato salad.  Make sure you sample a bite.  Or two.

NOTE:  If you’d like to serve this as an entree cut some spicy smoked sausage or polish sausage into bite size pieces and brown them in a little olive oil.  Stir the sausage pieces into the potato salad and serve with a fresh green salad.

Enjoy!

Asparagus Pickled and Asparagus Soup

Roadside stands and farm markets selling fresh asparagus is a sure sign of Spring in Michigan.  At our house we love asparagus roasted, in risotto, in quiche and, of course, pickled.  Anyway it’s served!  The pickled spears make perfect Bloody Mary swizzlers, make a relish tray look fancy and are just great for munching.  Several people were joking about asparagus and smelly pee so I decided to do a little research to see what causes the smell.  Asparagus, they say, contains asparagusic acid…not a very creative name…which breaks down into sulfur containing compounds when ingested.  Apparently everyone’s urine is pungent after eating asparagus however not everyone has the special gene that allows them to smell it.  Interesting.  In my research I came across a quote by French novelist Marcel Proust from the early 1900s.  He wrote  “asparagus transforms my chamber pot into a flask of perfume”.  I can tell you I do not have the “flask of perfume” gene.  In my reading I also learned that to cultivate white asparagus the shoots are covered with soil as they grow.  No exposure to sunlight causes them to remain white.  White or green, asparagus is very low in calories (about 3 calories a spear) and high in vitamins and fiber.  So enjoy guilt free!!

I bought about 25 pounds of asparagus and turned the majority of it into pickled spears…20 pint and a half jars.  I used taller jars allowing for longer spears but you still trim off several inches.  So as not to let that all go to waste I made asparagus soup.  Recipe follows.

Pickled Asparagus Ingredients:

7-8 pounds of asparagus trimmed to the appropriate length

2 quarts of water

1 quart of white vinegar

1 cup of granulated sugar

2 tsp mustard seed

1 T dill seed

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 T black pepper corns

1 T kosher salt

14 cloves of garlic peeled

1 onion sliced

Trim the spears to approximately 6″ and wash them thoroughly.  Sterilize the jars in a water bath.  In a heavy kettle combine the water, vinegar, sugar and spices and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and maintain the brine at a simmer.

In the meantime clean the garlic cloves and thin slice the onion.

Once the asparagus is trimmed, brine is simmering and onions and garlic are ready begin filling your jars.  I find it easiest to lay a sterilized jar on it’s side to fill it with spears adding some onion slices and a couple cloves of garlic to each jar.  Once the jar is filled top off with hot brine leaving 1/4 inch of head space.  Seal the jars.

Once all of the jars have been filled process them in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove the jars and allow them to cool completely.  As with all other canned goods I store them in a cool dry place,  Make sure the jars have sealed before stowing them away.  If a jar did not seal put it in the refrigerator and enjoy within a few weeks.  The quantities above made 7 pint and a half jars.

Allow the jars to sit for a couple of weeks prior to sampling.  That allows the brine to permeate the asparagus spears.

NOTE:  If you like your spears kicked up, add some sliced fresh jalapeño  to each jar or increase the red pepper flakes.

 

All of these yummy pieces of asparagus (and more) were left behind after my pickling and I did not want them to go to waste so they became soup.

 

Cream of Asparagus Soup Ingredients

2 pounds of asparagus pieces

1 medium onion rough diced

2-3 cloves of garlic

2 T butter

24 oz chicken broth

2 medium potatoes peeled and rough chopped

3 ribs of celery rough chopped

1 tsp of thyme

lemon juiced (approximately 1/4 cup)

12 oz half n half

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven heat the butter and saute the onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the asparagus, potato and celery.  Saute for 2-3 more minutes.

Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for approximately 20 minutes until all of the vegetables are tender.

Add the thyme and using an immersion blender blend until smooth.  Stir in the lemon juice.

Stir in the half n half and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Bring the soup back to a simmer.

While the soup is warming blanch some asparagus tips and pieces and set aside to add to the soup.

Ladle the soup into bowls.  Add some asparagus pieces and garnish with Parmesan cheese.  Serve with homemade croutons or crusty bread.

NOTE:  Discard the thick tough stalks and wash and cut the tender left over stalks into 1-2 inch pieces.  Blanch, bag and freeze.  They can be used in soup, quiche, or other recipes.

Cauliflower Soup with Cudighi

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It’s very cold in Michigan.  Perfect weather for soup.  The secret ingredient in this soup is cudighi.  Cudighi is Italian sausage that originated in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Most specifically it is said to have been invented by Italian immigrants in Ishpeming Michigan which happens to be where I was born.  Cudighi is made using pork butt and dry red wine, garlic, cinnamon,  nutmeg, clove and allspice.  The cudighi I used came from a little Co-op in my hometown of Chatham Michigan.  This sausage is very versatile.  It is excellent in spaghetti sauce or lasagna, formed into paddies and fried for a sandwich, mixed with ground beef for meatloaf or meat balls, as a pizza topping.  Your only limits are you imagination and, of course, your ability to access cudighi in the first place.  It might just be worth a trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to score a few pounds.  Or Vollwerths cudighi can be shipped from U.P. Foods in Lake Linden (info@upfoods.com).  If a trip to the UP or waiting for a sausage shipment seems like too much trouble, substitute with a good  Italian sausage available closer to home.

Ingredients:

1 pound cudighi (or Italian sausage of your choosing)

1 head of cauliflower

3-4 stalks of celery rough chopped

2-3 carrots sliced

3 leeks, white and light green parts, sliced

4-5 cloves of garlic diced

2 medium russet potatoes rough chopped

1 poblano pepper seeded and rough chopped

4 cups chicken broth

4 T flour

4 T butter

2 cups half and half or whole milk

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

salt and pepper to taste

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In a dutch oven cook the Cudighi over medium heat until it is no longer pink.  Drain and set aside.

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While the meat is browning prep all of the vegetables.  Slice the leeks and soak them in water.  Leeks tend to hold sand and you don’t want grit in your soup.

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Wash and cut up the poblano, celery and carrots.

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Peel and dice the potatoes and cut the cauliflower into flowerettes.

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Once the cudighi has been browned and set aside add the carrot, celery, and leeks to the drippings and sweat the vegetables over medium heat 3-4 minutes.  Add in the leeks and garlic and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes.  If necessary add a little olive oil.

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Add the potato, cauliflower and broth to the kettle.  Season with salt.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a slow simmer, cover the kettle and cook until the vegetables are all tender, 30-40 minutes.

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While the vegetables are simmering make a white sauce in a heavy sauce pan.  Melt 4 T of butter and whisk in the flour over medium heat.  Slowly add the milk continuing to whisk until the mixture starts to thicken.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the shredded cheese.

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Once the vegetables are fork tender purée using an immersion blender.  The consistency is a matter of personal taste.  You can leave some chunks in the soup or purée until smooth.  Once you’ve done the blending add the cheesy white sauce to your dutch oven as well as the sausage.  Add salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste.  Stir and bring to a simmer.

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Garnish with additional shredded cheese, green onions and cilantro.  And homemade garlic croutons.

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Ladle into serving bowls and enjoy!

NOTE:  Fresh parsley or basil leaves sliced, shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese,  or some chopped roasted red pepper would all make excellent garnishes for this soup.  Great served with a slice of good sourdough bread that you can use to clean your bowl.

I happen to think that soups are one of those things that taste a little better the second day.  We will be eating this soup for lunch tomorrow.

Chicken Soup with Vegetables and Orzo

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I baked a roasting chicken one night and used the rest of the chicken for soup the next.   You could also shred half of a grocery store rotisserie chicken.  In less than an hour you will have a perfect comfort food that is hearty and full of vegetables and chicken.  And it can be easily modified based on your personal preferences and/or what you have in your refrigerator.  We all know that chicken soup cures what ails you no matter what’s in it.

Ingredients:

1 cup of onion rough chopped

1 cup of celery rough chopped

1 poblano pepper diced (seeded if you want to keep the heat down)

1 cup of carrots sliced

2 cloves of garlic minced

2 T olive oil

6 cups of chicken broth

1 can hominy drained and rinsed

2 cups baby spinach

1/2 cup each of fresh parsley and fresh cilantro

zest and juice of one lemon

1/2 cup uncooked orzo

salt and pepper to taste

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In a heavy kettle or dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium high heat and sweat the celery, onion, carrots and pepper for about 5 minutes.  Add the minced garlic.  Reduce the heat, partially cover the kettle and cook until the carrots are tender.

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While the vegetables are cooking bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the orzo according to package instructions.

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Drain and rinse the hominy.

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Add the broth to the vegetables and bring it to a boil.  Cover the pot, reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

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Drain the orzo reserving some of the pasta water.  Add the orzo, chicken and hominy to the soup.  Simmer until the chicken is heated through.

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Stir in the lemon zest and juice, parsley and cilantro and the spinach.

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Stir until the spinach is wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.  If the soup needs more liquid add in some of the pasta water.

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Ladle into bowls and serve with toasted tortilla strips.

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Enjoy!!

NOTE:  I love the lemon in this soup but it’s really a matter of personal taste.  You could substitute peas and mushroom for the pepper and hominy.  Serve with a good crusty bread or your favorite crackers.  Cooking the pasta (or rice) prior to adding it to the soup helps to avoid pasta that is overcooked and absorbs all of the broth.

 

Pizza Sauce

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Last year when I was canning tomatoes I decided to make salsa.  As usual, I did more than necessary and have plenty of salsa left for this year.  This season I made some of my tomatoes into pizza sauce.  There is no pizza delivery anywhere remotely close to where we live so when we are craving pizza I need to make it myself.  The sauce is relatively easy to make.  Cooking down the tomatoes is the most time consuming part so you need to be patient or you will end up with watery sauce.  The kitchen smells so good when this sauce is cooking.

Ingredients:

Tomatoes , approximately 4 quarts peeled and diced

2 T olive oil

1 Large Onion diced

6 or more cloves of garlic (I used more)

2 T oregano

2 T basil

2 T celery seed

4 T chopped fresh parsley

2 T salt

2 T granulated sugar

cracked pepper to taste

1/4 tsp citric acid per pint of sauce

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Core, peel and dice the tomatoes.  Bring a large kettle of water to a boil and drop a few tomatoes in for a minute or so until you see the skins start to break.  Remove the tomatoes to an ice water bath and slide the skins off.  Dice and put the tomatoes into a large, non aluminum, kettle.

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Begin cooking the tomatoes over medium heat.  In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet and add the onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is tender and translucent but not brown.  Add the onion and garlic to the tomatoes.

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Bring the tomatoes to a simmer stirring frequently.  Add the sugar, herbs and spices, and salt and pepper.  Once the tomatoes begin to break down use an immersion blender to get a nice, smooth sauce.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes have reduced by approximately 50% and you have a nice sauce that clings to the spoon.

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Ladle the sauce into sterilized jars (I used pints).  Add 1/4 tsp of citric acid just before sealing the jars.  Process the sauce in a hot water bath for 45 minutes.  Once you remove the jars from the water bath allow them to cool completely before storing.

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That is not ALL pizza sauce…better than half the jars are diced tomatoes.  Now, all you need to do is whip up a crust and get a pizza in the oven.  I made one with the sauce that was left over after filling my jars and some of our favorite toppings.

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NOTE. If you don’t have an immersion blender you can use a regular blender or food processor and process in small batches.  Also feel free to add other spices or increase/decrease some of the ones that I used.  If you like your sauce kicked up a little add some red pepper flakes.

I put my garlic cloves in the tomatoes without dicing.  Once the sauce simmered for awhile the immersion blender took care of  them.

Stuffed Pepper Soup

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Earlier this week I made stuffed peppers and there were a few left over.  While we love leftovers, and truthfully, sometimes leftovers taste even better than they did the first time around, this time I decided to repurpose them.  We have had some pretty chilly May days and soup sounded perfect so I turned the peppers into soup.  Definitely an easy dish.  Earlier this year I posted my recipe for stuffed peppers.  I use ground pork and rice, lots of onion and garlic, and tomatoes.  Any recipe that you use for peppers would work in this soup.

Ingredients:

2-3 leftover stuffed peppers

1 pint of diced tomatoes

2 cups of beef broth (I use Better than Boullion)

2 T olive oil

1 cup rough diced sweet onion

3-4 cloves of garlic minced

basil and oregano

1 T brown sugar

1 pint green beans

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Heat olive oil in a heavy kettle or Dutch oven and add the diced onion.  Cook for two to three minutes stirring occasionally until the onion are tender but not brown.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

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Rough chop the peppers and add them to the pot.

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Add the tomatoes, brown sugar and broth.

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Stir in the green beans and fresh herbs.

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Bring to a gentle boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  All of the ingredients have already been cooked.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with a little shredded cheese.  I used Asiago but you can use any of your favorites.  Perfect on a chilly evening with some good, crusty bread.

NOTE:  You can substitute corn, diced zucchini, or frozen peas for the green beans.  If you have more leftover peppers increase the broth and tomato portions.  Enjoy your leftovers!

Tomato Bisque

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This is a rich, tomatoey soup that is a big hit with almost everyone I’ve served it to.  We all grew up eating Campbell’s tomato soup.  When I was a kid, long long ago, on Saturday nights we often had tomato soup with popcorn in it.  It’s actually a very good combo.  I saw a recipe a while back for tomato popcorn soup in an issue of  Food Network magazine.  Of course they used popcorn with truffle oil and grated truffle percorino cheese but even so,  they must have channeled my mother.  I think our family had this because it was a very inexpensive dinner that went a long way.  Truffle oil and truffle percorino would have defeated the purpose.  Plus the little general store in my hometown carried neither.  This soup recipe also uses a little Campbell’s but it’s the add-ins that make it so amazing.  The recipe originated from a bar-restaurant in Jackson Michigan.  I’ve modified it a bit by adding red or orange bell pepper, fresh garlic, and fresh basil.  I also use my home canned stewed tomatoes but good store bought stewed tomatoes work great.

Ingredients:

4 T butter

1 large sweet onion diced

1 red or orange bell pepper diced

4-5 garlic cloves sliced

3 pints stewed tomatoes

1 large family size can Campbell’s tomato soup

8 oz cream cheese

1 T dried basil

3 cups half-n-half

salt and pepper to taste

fresh basil and  Asiago cheese for garnish

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Melt the butter in a Dutch oven or heavy kettle over medium high heat and add the onions and peppers.  Cook until they are tender, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook an additional minute or two until the garlic is fragrant.

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Reduce the heat.  Stir in the tomatoes and tomato soup.  Cube the cream cheese and add that to the tomatoes.

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Cook over low heat until heated through.  Stir in the dried basil and salt and pepper to taste.  Use an immersion blender and purée the soup.  If you don’t have an immersion blender you can add the soup, in batches, to your food processor or blender.  Stir in the half-n-half.  Continue to cook over low heat until the soup comes to a simmer.  Serve it up garnished with fresh chiffonaded basil, shredded cheese and croutons.  I used Asiago cheese and croutons made from swirl rye.  Enjoy!

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NOTE:  You can add some diced oven dried tomatoes, diced green onion, or another favorite cheese like sharp cheddar or smoked Gouda.  This soup can also double as an awesome sauce for vegetable crepes or pasta dishes.  This soup  freezes beautifully.