Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Edible Traditions: Escarole Soup

A holiday tradition I married into is Escarole Soup for dinner on Dec 24th. We gather around, sharing bread and a warm bowl while the house is toasty & smells of rich soup that's been simmering all day. It is so cozy, and pretty darn healthy to boot. (I'll have to see about taking a photo next time I mix some up)

This soup has been on my mind for two reasons... firstly, the woman in the grocery store that stopped me with the hope that I could point out which ball of leafy greens was the escarole (answer: yes, obvs.) and Second, because I made up a huge bowl for the winter team ride I hosted for my super, fantastic, awesome teammates this past weekend. It was a COLD ride, lots of wind, damp, and frozen legs. This soup was just the thing to warm us back up. So without further ado, the recipe;

In a large soup pot - heat oil, and simmer a sprinkling of celery seeds till fragrantSauté 1 chopped onion & garlic clove 
Add chopped carrots, celery, and potato. Keep the veg fairly large, but still bite sizedWhen potato turns golden, add chopped Italian tomatoes (I like Pomi for this) - if tomato does not come pre-seasoned, add in a bit of dried oregano, thyme, and basil. 
Add in two boxes of beef broth, low sodium and organic if you have it.Also add in Italian meatballs. If you use the pre-made, pre-cooked, frozen in-a-bag variety, we won't tell! (turkey meatballs are a fantastic option) 
Once the meatballs are heated thru, add in a head of cleaned & shredded escarole. Simmer until ready to serve. 
Top with freshly grated Parmesan. 
Kick it up a bit with some cayenne pepper, or used roasted garlic. If you have Parm rinds, feel free tho throw those in with the broth as well. Go easy on the salt - chances are the meatballs will bring quite a bit to the party.
I realize there are no measurements. This is what happens when you've cooked the same recipe for over a decade. However, it is a very forgiving recipe, so if you want to venture in to soupery, give this a go! Eye the ratio of chopped veggies, you want to keep them fairly balanced. I think I use about two handfuls of each.

This soup is even better the day after the day after the day it was made. So build up as big a pot as you can fill, and treat your family to a warm and hearty bowl.

A note about escarole....

If you aren't familiar with escarole, you might think it odd that a leafy green would be added (so early!) to a soup. However  it doesn't break down or wilt - even upon reheating. It is a delicious leafy veg. If you can't find escarole, you should complain to the produce grocer, and then substitute with a hearty (not too bitter!) leafy green. It will still be good, just not the same as the original.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sweet Holidays

It's the most wonderful time of the year! 

I love the holiday season. I'm sure this is influenced by the proximity of my own birthday - but an entire season of fairy lights and good cheer, music, evergreen, parties and goodies, and (if we're lucky) snowball fights followed by warming our toes in front of the fire, and our bellies with cocoa or spicy spiked cider.

My biggest challenge of this season is the internal conflict. Threads of tradition stronger than determination, which effortlessly rewire the smart eating we've worked long and hard to establish. Nostalgia crashing upon the shore of knowledge and good intentions. We know sugar should not be consumed in excess, yet it is the prevalent white substance that we throw at each other with all the love and care we can. I mean look at the hours we spend creaming butter & sugar, baking and frosting, candying and brewing. While I firmly believe that the homemade is far superior to the boxes and bags of sugarlumps that are mass marketed in abundance, it does not bode well to consume in the volumes that are so readily produced.

That said, I have yet to figure out how to reconcile my desire for the treats that have become tradition with the desire to eat healthy. I do not buy in to making fake versions of treats; and I have been playing with reducing the pure sugar content - but honestly you aren't going to get a Healthy sugarcookie. Am I the only one that giggles inside anytime I read a recipe for Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies? I keep imagining a caveman beating a bush with his club, and watching cookie dough fall to be gathered.  But don't get me wrong - I vastly appreciate the improvements and options that the gluten free (ala paleo) movements have provided to those who need it. But carob will never be chocolate, and I truly enjoy the flavor of homemade cookies and treats.

I do not want to abandon the tradition, the joy I experience when baking and sharing treats. But I do need to sit down and spend a little more time building up my Goldilocks Bakery concept - balancing indulgences with healthier and still delicious treats. Because for now, I'm finding I am avoiding baking, instead of whipping up the ganache covered salted caramel shortbread that inundates my dreams. Until then, I do plan to finish the Gingerbread House S'mores, as they've been on my to do list for the past 2 years.

So please forgive if I deliver a tin full of treats, as I work to distribute and reduce the amount sitting in my kitchen, or in my own belly.