Carrot-ginger soup has a bit of a bite

Carrotgingersoup

There is a booth at the farmers market that has the best carrots I’ve ever tasted. I buy a bunch of them each week. Last weekend, they had a bulk bag of them, and I picked one up, determined to do something with them. I had seen carrot soup on menus before, but never felt terribly enthusiastic about it. But then I came across this recipe for carrot-ginger soup.

Carrot soup on its own has always sounded bland, but the ginger in this recipe really made it interesting. It was flavorful in a way I didn’t expect, and I enjoyed it for lunch for a few days after I made it. The best part is that it was pretty easy to make, too, as long as you’ve got some time to devote to the simmering process. As usual, I used my immersion blender for this, and it worked perfectly. I’d highly recommend using one if you have one in your kitchen.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons sweet cream butter
2 onions, peeled and chopped
6 cups chicken broth
2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 cup whipping cream
Salt and white pepper
Sour cream
Parsley sprigs, for garnish

In a 6-quart pan, over medium high heat, add butter and onions and cook, stirring often, until onions are limp. Add broth, carrots, and ginger. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender when pierced. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth. Serve soup with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of parsley.

Rainbow salad is pure gold

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I love the farmers market in the fall. All of the vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables fill the booths in an enticing display that makes me want to buy everything and then run home and find new recipes to try. But, I only cook for one, so I remind myself to keep it reasonable and pick up different things each week so I can still satisfy my desire to be creative in the kitchen.

Last week, I picked up some homemade root beer, as well as some beets and carrots to use for a recipe I had in mind.

In addition to being ridiculously gorgeous, this carrot-beet slaw is also quite tasty. With the exception of toasting the pistachios, it’s also completely raw.

Because I bought bullseye beets instead of regular red beets, I had to roast them in the over for about an hour to encourage the flavor to come out. Had I gotten normal beets, I’d have used them raw.

As with most first attempts at a new recipe, I always follow the instructions exactly. I was hesitant about soaking the raisins in vinegar, but decided to trust the creative chefs at Bon Appétit because they certainly know more about cooking than I do.

I was floored by how good this was. There was so much flavor and texture to make this interesting and completely delightful. The parsley, mint, and red pepper flakes made the flavor so dimensional. I devoured it. And then went back for seconds because, with this salad, there is no guilt in going back for more.

Ingredients
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
6 medium carrots (about 1 pound), peeled, julienned
2 medium beets (any color; about 1 pound), peeled, julienned
1/2 cup (packed) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup (packed) fresh mint leaves
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup unsalted, shelled raw pistachios

Combine garlic, raisins, and vinegar in a large bowl; let sit 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread out pistachios on a small rimmed baking sheet; toast, stirring occasionally until golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Let cool; coarsely chop.

Remove garlic from raisin mixture and discard. Add carrots, beets, pistachios, parsley, mint, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes; season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Add oil; toss gently.

Not your basic breaded chicken

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When fall rolls around, I tend to haul out my cookbooks and start looking for recipes I haven’t tried. The colder weather makes me crave savory soups and roasted meats, and I’m always looking for new ways to keep it interesting. I pulled out my copy of “Foolproof” by the Barefoot Contessa. I was shocked to realize that, although it was a gift I’d received last Christmas, I had yet to try any of the recipes.

Since it was a Tuesday after work, I wanted to keep it simple and use things I had on hand. Despite living pretty close to a grocery story, once I’m in my apartment and out of the rain, I’m reluctant to go outside again. I settled on this recipe for Crispy Mustard-Roasted Chicken.

It’s a pretty basic breaded chicken recipe, but the dijon mustard takes the flavor to the next level, so you really don’t need anything else to jazz it up. It was a perfect dinner for a weeknight and one I’ll definitely turn to again.

Ingredients
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups panko (Japanese bread flakes)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 tablespoons good olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup Dijon mustard, such as Grey Poupon
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) chicken, cut in eighths

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the garlic, thyme, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until the garlic is finely minced. Add the panko, lemon zest, olive oil, and butter and pulse a few times to moisten the bread flakes. Pour the mixture onto a large plate. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the mustard and wine.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Sprinkle generously all over with salt and pepper. Dip each piece in the mustard mixture to coat on all sides, and then place skin-side down only into the crumb mixture, pressing gently to make the crumbs adhere. Place the chicken on a sheet pan crumb-side up. Press the remaining crumbs on the chicken pieces.

Bake the chicken for 40 minutes. Raise the heat to 400 degrees F and bake for another 10 minutes, until the crumbs are browned and the chicken is cooked through. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Plum cake: Not just for fairytales

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Plum cake has always sounded like something served in a children’s story, and I’d never really thought about it until one of my co-workers named it as his favorite dessert. I keep a list of my co-workers’ birthdays and favorite desserts so, if I have time when their birthdays roll around, I can bake something for them. I once baked a pumpkin pie for one of my reporters, and he sat at his desk and ate it out of the dish for his lunch that day. I loved that he enjoyed it so much.

Since this particular co-worker was out of the country when his birthday rolled around, I had some time to look through plum cake recipes before I settled on this one. I picked up plums from the farmers market and got to work on it. The batter is a pretty basic mix of ingredients, and it was stiffer than I expected it to be. I figured the juice from the plums would provide the extra sweetness and moisture once it was baked.

Though it isn’t normal for me to give someone something I haven’t first tried myself, I felt pretty confident that this cake turned out the way it was supposed to. My co-worker, of course, told me he had never had a plum cake, so his expectations weren’t as high as I had believed. He enjoyed it, and I was able to sample a bite of it and I was surprised at how good it was. I consider that to be a success for a first attempt.

Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Large pinch of salt

1 cup granulated sugar plus 1 to 2 tablespoons (depending on sweetness of plums)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 large eggs

6 large imperial plums, halved and pitted

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat over to 350 degrees F. Sift or whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a larger bowl, cream butter and 1 cup sugar together with an electric mixer until fluffy and light in color. Add the eggs, one at a time and scraping down the bowl, then the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Spoon batter into an ungreased 9-inch springform pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plums, skin side up, all over the batter, covering it. Sprinkle the top with lemon juice, then cinnamon, then remaining sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into a center part of the cake comes out free of batter, about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on rack.

Leave it covered at room temperature overnight so the plum juice can soak into the cake around it.

Just add cheese sauce for a cauliflower gratin

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Cauliflower doesn’t have a ton of flavor on its own. When I’ve made it in the past, I’ve either roasted it on a baking sheet or steamed it because I rarely feel inspired to do much more with it.

Last week, Curtis Stone posted a recipe for cauliflower gratin, which only required five ingredients, so I thought I’d try it. It’s basically just cauliflower and cheese — the cheese sauce is a roux with grated Gruyère thrown in.

What I most liked about this recipe was that the cauliflower still had texture and flavor — it wasn’t overpowered by the sauce, though it made a lot of sauce for just one head of cauliflower. I could have easily added another half of a head of cauliflower and still had an abundance of sauce. But, this is another nice, simple way to do something more interesting with cauliflower.

Ingredients
1 head cauliflower
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 quart whole milk
2 cups grated Gruyère cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

While the water is heating up, break up the cauliflower into medium to small florets. Cook the cauliflower for 3 to 4 minutes, or until just barely tender but still has a bit of bite. Transfer the cauliflower to a bowl of ice water and cool completely. Remove the cauliflower from the ice water and allow to dry completely.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and stir until melted. Whisk in the flour to blend well. Cook, whisking constantly, for about 5 minutes, making sure the mixture doesn’t take on any color. Slowly whisk in the milk and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the flour taste is gone, stirring often and making sure the sauce does not stick to the bottom of the pan.

Gradually add 1 1/2 cups of the cheese, whisking until melted and smooth. If the sauce thickens too much, thin it out with a little more milk. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Place the cauliflower in an ovenproof dish and drizzle the sauce evenly over the cauliflower. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the cauliflower and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the top is light golden brown.

Let stand at room temperature for about 5 minutes before serving.