After a spell of overindulgence, there’s nothing our bodies crave more than vegetables and especially green ones. In all shapes and forms, greens are good for us and the greener, the better.
Today’s column runs with a recipe for Spinach Soup and it’s variations. The soup is a brilliant emerald-green and scrumptious and warm all at the same time. My favorite variation is the Spinach with Cannellini Beans and Chicken. It’s one where you could use leftover chicken and add it at the very end or sauté a chicken breast or two along with making the rest of the soup.
Spinach, Cannelli Beans and Chicken Soup
This soup is a gorgeous, bright green, and should be served immediately. If you would like to make it ahead, prepare everything, up to adding the spinach. When you are ready to serve, heat the soup to a simmer and purée with spinach in the blender as per the directions.
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced onions; about 1 medium onion
1 1/2 cups diced celery; about 2 stalks
1 cup peeled and diced parsnips; about 2 parsnips
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
3 ounces spinach leaves, de-stemmed and well washed; about 3 cups lightly packed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
14 ounces chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces; about 2 chicken breast halves
1, 15-ounce can cannellini beans
Garnish with minced chives or a swirl of crème frâiche
In a medium stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables, salt and pepper and sauté until they become soft and translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the stock and again bring to a boil.
Place the uncooked spinach leaves in the blender and pour the hot stock over the leaves. Carefully purée in a blender. Meanwhile, heat the second 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the stock pot over medium-high heat and add the chicken. When the chicken is just cooked through, add the beans to heat and then the pureed stock back into the pot. Mix well, turn off heat and serve immediately.
Now that the freezer has had its figurative meltdown, our refrigerator is full to bursting with condiments and raw ingredients such as jams, chutneys, cocktail sauce and large bunches of kale, several squash, whole beets and chicken livers marinating in port. Not exactly what anyone wants to bring in their lunch to school, something I’ve been hearing for more than a few days now.
Not really wanting to cook, but knowing that I’ve promised myself that I would not go to the grocery store until one, some of the food we have has left the building so to speak and two, we actually have the space to receive more food. That means that milk and cereal are not in our future for at least a few more days. We can do it, family!
At some point I’ll need to go to the grocery store for milk in our coffee, but I will endeavor to put that off as long as possible! At least until there’s space in the fridge to put the milk. Day 23 without going to the grocery store.
My column ran on alewives a few weeks ago and from it my readers gifted me with their memories and even more information about alewives. One reader wrote:
What memories you brought back to me this past Wednesday, June 1, with your article on Smoked Alewives. I was a child during the depression and I remember clearly the fish truck coming, my mother buying smoked alewives and baking them for our supper. THEN, my dear, dear dad would sit at the table and painstakingly pick over every little portion he put on my plate. When I asked why I just couldn’t have a “big piece” he gently told me there were tiny bones that might hurt me, or choke me. They were so good; in reflection…what a great dad…a childhood memory, perhaps a depression memory as I have never had them since.
Nevertheless, happy memories brought back once again by your article. Thank you.
The president of Nobleboro Historical Society, part of the Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder Restoration project, wrote as well with links and information on the Alewife Festival held every Memorial Day weekend in Damariscotta. Apparently, as recently as 1950, it was large enough to warrant an Alewife Queen!
While I’ve never been able to attend due to our sailing schedule, any one that I’ve known who has gone has talked about how magical the fish are as they jump and spring out of the water to reach their spawning destination. They are caught in the ladder and then smoked by Mary Jane Buchan and her family/friends in their smokehouse that has been used to smoke alewives for decades.
Crêpes are one of those ultra versatile meals that can go fancy breakfast or quick weeknight dinner, sweet or savory, planned or using up bits of leftovers. The recipes in the column today tend more toward the informal, however, the one my family has used for years on Christmas Day is as elegant as it gets. While Christmas has past, New Years Brunch has not, so it’s not too late to experience what is the Holy Grail for our family, Crêpes Eggs Benedict.
Many of my grandma's baking recipes called for sour milk, the modern equivalent of which is buttermilk. You can cause milk to sour by adding one tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of milk, but you need to use a little bit less of the created buttermilk because it's a little thinner than store bought.
What I'm finding as I use raw milk is that while raw milk will sour faster than pasteurized, once the milk goes sour it has a fabulous consistency which is perfect for baking. On the boat, I end up using half and half, cream or milk that has soured but has a second life making flavor in brownies, scones, biscuits and Irish soda bread.
This week's The Maine Ingredient column in the Portland Press Herald is about making your own cheese – ricotta, ricotta salata and Y(5) yogurt. Y(5) yogurt is a cultured yogurt that is sweeter, a little less sour and thicker than others I've made at home and on the boat and I can't make it fast enough to satisfy the mouths in this family. The only downside is it's not meant to be recultured, meaning you need to use a packet of culture from New England Cheese Supply Company every time.
To make yogurt cheese, which is spreadable and somewhat like goat cheese, line a deep bowl with cheese cloth and pour the yogurt into the cloth. Tie the ends and hang over the bowl by threading a wooden spoon through the knot and resting the spoon on the edge of the bowl. Allow the whey (the liquid) to separate from the solids overnight. Remove the cheese cloth and enjoy on crackers, toast or drizzle with olive oil and herbs.
To make cheese balls, roll into small equal sized balls and place in a jar of olive oil and a sprig of rosemary. Store in refrigerator for up to two weeks. If the oil has congealed, simple let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes and then remove the yogurt.
When, in my most recent PPH column on no knead sourdough bread, I offered to send a bit of my 100 year old sourdough starter to anyone who wanted it, I had no idea the response would be so great! Usually when I offer to send something to readers I get four or five requests. This time? Try over 130!
And then the trick of how to get that much starter going quickly was the least of the worries. How to package it, mail it and get it all done without spending days on it? The post office had enough priority mail boxes to send out 39 packages the first week. We cleaned them right out. And thankfully, the boxes that we ordered online arrived yesterday and now we can mail out the rest. So far, packaging 1 cup of starter in a 2 cup plastic container with a lid, putting that into a ziplock and nesting it in newspaper sounds as if its working. I haven’t heard from anyone that they received a Jaba the Hut mess in their mailbox.
The sourdough has been quite accommodating and has grown by leaps since the requests began coming in and it’s actually looking happier and healthier with all of this activity. Of course, I’ve had to make some bread, pancakes and waffles with it, I just couldn’t resist.
If you asked for some sourdough, don’t fret, its coming!
Due to the overwhelming response of requests for this starter we can no longer offer it free of charge. There is now a nominal charge of $10 for the starter and $5 for shipping. Thank you for your understanding.