Category Archives: Sides

Creamy Sunchoke Soup

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Just as summer turned to a fall, a few of my ladies and I got together for a girls’ night in.

Originally it was intended to be a last hurrah at the lake; a final chance to sit outside and watch the sunset.  We would have a bite to eat here and there, likely with a cocktail in hand.  Over time that plan evolved, and eventually it was decided that each of us would bring an appetizer and a drink to our little soiree.  It would be a potluck sampling of sorts.  At one point, there was talk of a possible contest and judging and a winner for the best pairing – and the accompanying bragging rights of course.  So naturally we all took this very seriously.

What actually ended up happening is that the night we chose to meet was cold and rainy and our beloved sun was nowhere to be found.  So much for that part.  Undeterred we all still showed and passed our contributions around in the coziness of the kitchen, which everyone knows is the best place to end up at a party anyway.

We realized rather quickly that we should have agreed on a theme – for the drinks at least – because our “cocktails” ran the gamut from Jello shots to ginormous Moscow Mules to homemade Irish Cream.  Basically, we created a recipe for a hangover.  If you want to try this at home (…and I definitely think you should; it was a super fun time!), have everyone bring a drink using the same kind of alcohol, and dole the drinks out in small-ish standard cups.

Lesson learned.

We had a lot of variety in the food department too.  I must say, it was pretty neat to see how creative everyone got.  For my part, I brought a batch of Stormy Mornings and shooters of this creamy sunchoke soup.  If you’ve never tried a sunchoke (also known as a Jerusalem artichoke) before, it tastes like a cross between an artichoke and an especially rich potato.  In this soup, the flavor takes on a mushroom-like quality; very earthy.  To balance that earthiness, I added a secret ingredient.  Spoiler alert: it’s Prosecco!  I liked the way that it paired with my cocktail, which also included some bubbles.

If you are looking for an excuse to pop a bottle this weekend, or are in need of a little something extra for your Thanksgiving table, either (or both!) of these recipes would be excellent choices!

 

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Farro Salad with Strawberries, Peas and Brown Butter Vinaigrette

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“It’s been a bad year for strawberries”, the man behind the counter sullenly says to me.

I nod my head in agreement.  Early as we are into the Summer, it’s been hard to find them big and ripe and juicy, if I can find them at all.  Even my favorite farmstand – the one [where the man works] that never lets me down – is severely lacking in the strawberry department.  A late frost in April seems to have stunted most of the berry crops in our area.  Growers are only allowing picking for a couple of weeks, as opposed to the usual month-ish long season, and prices for the most part are at a premium.  This is our debt to Mother Nature, I suppose.

The two plants in my garden didn’t fare well either.  I became prematurely excited when they started producing, tiny as the berries were, they were maturing – until a few nighttime critters (chipmunks, I believe) had at them.  Next year, you can rest assured that I’ll be putting more plants in, and some preventative fencing around them too!

The moral of this story then is that when I have been fortunate enough to come across strawberries (my most favorite of all of my favorite fruits), I’ve been snatching them up and putting them in everything.  The berries that are less sweet have been roasted and pulsed into smoothies like this one.  Or mixed with rhubarb and baked into a crumble, eventually drowned in a puddle of Jones Family Farm gelato.  The squished, wrinkled, etc. are seeped in hot water until they turn white are made into tea, drank hot or iced.  As for the few that are just right, they’re popped down plain or mixed into this warm salad.

 

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Summer Sweet Corn and Spinach Gratin

Thank You so much to Santa Rita Wines for sponsoring this post!  As always, all opinions are my own.  #120DaysOfSummer

 

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When I think of this season, I think of the color yellow.  It’s in the sunshine-y afternoons, the golden hue of the wheat fields down the road from my house, the crisp, cool glasses of white wine resting on the dinner table, and the ever-present bags of fresh sweet corn in my garage.  Sweet corn is by the far the most requested menu item when we have company visiting from out of town; people go crazy for it.

The majority of the time I roll the ears in a good salted butter and let everyone have at them, but as of late I’ve been experimenting with more complex preparations.  This sweet corn spinach gratin is a result of those experiments.  The base of the gratin is a béchamel sauce, flavored with Badia Complete Seasoning.  I’ve made this recipe using just about every green from my garden, and while I like the mild flavor of spinach best, both kale and rainbow chard worked as well, so please feel free to experiment.

I served the gratin at a family party this weekend, and it was a huge hit.  It paired extremely well with the bottle of Santa Rita 120 Sauvignon Blanc we had popped, which was also a key component of our meal.  In fact, there wasn’t a dish on our table that didn’t either incorporate the Badia spices or the wine, in some capacity.

We started dinner with a grilled romaine salad that I topped with a homemade spice-enhanced ranch dressing.  I added a sprinkle of the Badia mix to my not-so-secret barbecue sauce recipe, then slathered that on chicken thighs, and served them with the gratin.  We finished with peaches poached in the white wine, butter and vanilla beans, which we poured over shortcakes.  All of those things might sound fancy, but truthfully, they couldn’t have been simpler to plate, as most of the (minimal) prep can be done ahead of time.

The gratin travels pretty well too.  You can make it to the point of baking and throw it in the oven once you reach your destination.  Alternately, opt out of the baking altogether and heat it on the grill or over a campfire until the filling is bubbly.  You can eat it hot or at room temperature.  I have a feeling that once you try it, you’ll be seeing yellow all summer long!

 

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