Meatless Monday: Vegan Sweet Potato Chipotle Bisque with Cilantro Oil

While it's true the clocks and the calendar have "sprung ahead," there remains a wintry chill in the air. We figure we have a couple more chances to create soup recipes before soup season is "over." This warm and satisfying bisque is a treat with no dairy and very little fat. It makes a striking statement of flavor when accompanied with fresh, springy cilantro oil. We recently served this at a party in stylish shot glasses to the amusement of our friends who loved the "soup shots!" concept.

For the Bisque:


4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and rough chopped
2 large yellow onions, rough chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 quarts water or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
Salt and white pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, place sweet potatoes, onions and garlic. Cover with water or stock, and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium and allow potatoes to cook until very soft, about 20 minutes. Add cinnamon, cumin and chipotle pepper. Puree with an immersion blender, a regular blender or food processor. (Note: If you use a regular blender or food processor, beware not to fill the blender to the top with hot soup, as that heat could cause the lid to blow off and splatter hot soup all over you and the kitchen. Therefore, it is best to work in batches, 1/2 a blender at a time and hold the lid down). Season the soup to taste, with salt and white pepper. If the soup is too thick, add more hot water to achieve desired consistency. It should coat the back of a spoon. Serve in a bowl topped with a drizzle of cilantro oil (recipe below).

For the Cilantro Oil:


1 bunch cilantro, stems and leaves, rinsed and free of dirt
1 clove of garlic
1 cup light olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. As the oil sits, it may separate, with the cilantro going to the bottom. If this happens, just shake it up. Place in squeeze bottle or just drizzle with a spoon on top of the soup.


Almost Wordless Weekender

 everything bagel. cream cheese. purple basil microgreens. tomato paste dots.


Chef Lise's Irish Stew, or, Happy St. Patrick's Day!

We were just talking about green things, and here it is, St. Patrick's Day 2011. Our chef/friend Lise was on Good Morning Connecticut last weekend demonstrating how to make her Irish Stew, and since it looked so easy and sounded so delicious, we decided to make it for our annual Irish-themed dinner with our neighbors D and J. It's a nice tradition, actually - they make corned beef and cabbage, we make something else (neither corned beef nor cabbage are "Amy-approved"), and we have ourselves a feast to honor the patron saint of the Emerald Isle. As we tend to do, we made a few changes to Lise's recipe (with her blessing!), but followed the directions she provided in the t.v. segment which you can watch here. And guess what? As expected, the stew was both very easy and very delicious.

Boiled vegetables

D and J's corned beef and cabbage dinner

Instead of "black-n-tans," we have "black-n-greens":
Harp with green food coloring topped with Guinness


note: per Chef's suggestion, we used Smithwick's Ale instead of the more bitter-tasting Guinness

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds lamb shoulder chops, trimmed from the bone and cut into bite sized pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1 medium onion
2 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 celery root, peeled and cut into large chunks
4 cups beef broth
1 bottle Irish ale (see note)
6-8 small potatoes, quartered (we used red, purple and yellow)
1 cup coarsely chopped leeks
1 bundle fresh thyme
freshly cut celery microgreens  or parsley for garnish
(celery microgreens pictured right, more on that in a post coming soon)

Plug in a 6-quart crockpot and turn it to high. Place trimmed lamb bones in crockpot (if you have any) to flavor the stew. In a cast iron pan, heat oil over medium heat. Season lamb pieces and cook in two batches, stirring gently, until evenly browned. Remove from pan to crockpot. Add all remaining ingredients except garnish to crockpot. Cover and cook on high for 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Remove bones and thyme bundle from crockpot and serve stew in large bowls with a pretty garnish, some crusty bread and a bottle of Irish ale to with. Erin go bragh! 


Lemon Rosemary Cornish Game Hens

We don't know if you heard, but it was a pretty bad winter this year. Yet somehow, the rosemary bush in our garden survived. Since it's the only green thing we've seen in months, we felt it was just begging to be used in tonight's dinner. The best thing about this dinner is how easy it is to prepare. About five minutes of hands-on work and 45 minutes in the oven is all it takes to make this elegant-looking, herbacious, tasty meal. When we finished eating, we threw the bones into a pot with some old vegetables (a couple of rubbery carrots, an onion, and a leek), covered them with water, and proceeded to make our own chicken stock that is destined for some culinary creation that is in our near future.

2 Cornish game hens
2 lemons, quartered
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon herbs de Provence
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup white wine

Preheat oven to 450. Stuff each game hen with four lemon quarters and one sprig of rosemary and place them in a baking pan. Melt the butter in a small bowl. Finely chop the remaining rosemary and stir it into the melted butter along with salt and pepper to taste. Cover each game hen all over with the butter mixture, then sprinkle each game hen with half of the herbs de Provence. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, pour the white wine into the bottom of the roasting pan and swirl it around. Continue to cook the game hens for another 15 minutes, basting the hens with this wine 2-3 times during those 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
It's not easy being green. In CT. After the winter we had!

About to be placed into the hot oven

A second plating style

The remains become homemade chicken stock


Chef Lise Jaeger Shares Irish Stew on Good Morning Connecticut

Our good friend Chef Lise Jaeger was on Good Morning Connecticut on WTNH Saturday morning. Amy knows, because she had the honor of going along to assist. Bright and early Saturday morning, the two of them set off to the studio with coolers and bags full of ingredients and cookware (plus some finished stew for show, it being television and all). First they got Lise ready in the green room (which, to Amy's surprise, was actually green -  sort of a nice, calming, minty green). Then they proceeded into the studio to set up. Everyone in the crew was very nice and allowed Amy to watch the segment from a few feet away in the studio and even to take a few photos! Lise did  a great job and seemed like a natural on camera. The stew was exceptionally tasty and very easy to make, especially after Lise walks you through it in the video. And even though Lise didn't get a chance to mention them, the scones were amazing. Check out the video above and the recipes here.

P.S. Lise shared her recipe for Butternut Peanut Bisque with us in January, so check that recipe out while you're at it.


Mardi Gras Meal: New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp with Freshly Baked Baguette

"What should we do for dinner?" We were both home sick, recovering from a too-long bout of bronchitis with some laryngitis thrown in for good measure. Not a good mix for two teachers. Suddenly there was a knock on the back door. Odd. It was our neighbor, Megan, who is in culinary school studying to become a pastry chef. We've been the recipients of a few of her experiments, but none so well timed as this - she was bearing gifts of two gorgeously crunchy baguettes and two flavorful focaccia breads, fruits of her (A+) final exam. It being Mardi Gras, we used the baguettes as the base of our meal and baked some shrimp in Louisiana BBQ Shrimp Sauce Mix. The shrimp were rich and buttery, spicy enough to clear our noses, and required minimal effort, but the best part? Dipping Megan's beautiful baguettes in that delicious sauce. Thanks, Megan! If it weren't for our neighbors these days, where would we be???

Mardi Gras Madness, or, We Get By with a Little Quiche from our Friends

Mardi Gras Madness 2011 has come and gone, and were it not for our "Krewe," it wouldn't have happened at all. Special thanks to: the boys who helped build and take down "Tent City," the friends who ran errands picking up last minute things, the chef who stored our five turkeys in his walk-in, the 90 or so guests who came with fabulous dishes in hand, the babysitters, the designated drivers, the forgiving neighbors, Mardi Gras Outlet for their speedy delivery of Pat O'Brien's Hurricane Mix, and to "Bizzlos" for this deliciously satisfying morning-after quiche made with turkey sausage, asparagus, mushrooms and spinach. Happy Mardi Gras, everyone! Laissez les bon temps rouler!!!


Leftover Rotisserie Chicken Pho

We know that the main reason they sell those rotisserie chickens in supermarkets is because they make the store smell good, and when people smell good food, they want to buy it. We know this. And yet, well, they smell good. So we buy them. Occasionally. Obviously we prefer to buy a roaster and roast it ourselves but now and then even we are too busy to cook.

Thus we found ourselves with some leftover rotisserie chicken the same day we saw this recipe for Vietnamese Beef and Noodle Soup (Pho Bo) on the Chicago Tribune website. A substitution here, a little tweaking there, and here's our adaptation, a recipe for Leftover Rotisserie Chicken Pho. This could be our new chicken noodle soup!!!


5 whole cloves
4 thin slices peeled ginger root
pinch of anise seed
1 cinnamon stick
6 cups chicken broth
1 onion, sliced
1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 8-ounce package rice stick noodles
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, sliced
2 cups leftover rotisserie chicken, sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 small bunch cilantro
1 cup bean sprouts
1 green onion, sliced
1 lime, quartered
sriracha or hot sauce to taste

Combine cloves, ginger, anise seed, cinnamon stick, broth, sliced onion, peppercorns and salt in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. When it is done, strain it and return it to low heat to stay warm. Meanwhile, place the rice sticks in a bowl, cover with warm water, and allow to soak for 15-20 minutes. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium high heat and add the shallots; cook until golden brown, then set aside. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drain the rice sticks and place them in small batches into the boiling water until tender but still firm, about 15 seconds. Drain and divide noodles into soup bowls. Divide the chicken and shallots among the bowls and ladle the broth on top. Divide the cilantro, bean sprouts, green onions and lime wedges among the bowls and drizzle with sriracha or hot sauce to taste.


Pizza Fail

It sounded good. It was going to make us think of Italy in summer and the times we had fresh, juicy melon wrapped in paper-thin prosciutto. But we were going to put a spin on it. We were going to make it into a pizza. A pizza topped with bufala mozzarella, prosciutto and cantaloupe, then lightly drizzled with balsamic vinegar. 

How far we've fallen, and in only two days! This pizza was a total failure. Although we brushed the dough with olive oil, there was way too much water in the cheese and melon and all of it just soaked into the dough making it a soggy mess. And the prosciutto we bought was pre-sliced and...from Germany. Don't get us wrong, there's nothing wrong with Germany or its prosciutto, but not on this pizza. Because it was sliced thick, it was rubbery and very difficult to chew.

We won't bother giving you a recipe because, really, we don't want you trying this at home. But it sure sounded good. Didn't it?