Yum Peaceful Cooking: December 2014

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Butternut and Leek Soup with Red Lentils

Sometimes, when you can't decided between two options, combining them is the best idea ever.

I really love Julia Child's Leek and Potato soup. I really love Butternut Squash Soup. I was in the mood for both and just couldn't decide what to do. Although I was leaning a bit more towards the leek soup, the butternut squash really needed to be used soon.

Using Julia's recipe as a guide, and her often simple, basic seasoning technique that allows the main ingredient's flavor to shine like a star rather than the supporting spices and herbs, It's surprising how a bit salt and pepper is the only seasoning this recipe needs. Trust me, hold back on the urge to add the garlic or cumin, or whatever your go-to favorites are. Try it in it's true form first and remember that you can add other seasonings later if you choose.

Butternut and Leek Soup with Red Lentils

Printable Version

1 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into 2" cubes
2 leeks, including tender greens, sliced and rinsed
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 cup diced butternut squash
2 quarts of water plus more as needed
1/4 cup red lentils, uncooked
1 tablespoon salt
White pepper to taste
3 tablespoons of butter
Chives or parsley

In a large put simmer the vegetables, water and salt, partially covered with a lid for about 30 minutes. Add the lentils and continue simmering, partially covered for another 20 - 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add warm water as needed to keep the vegetables under water.

Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender (or in batches in a blender) puree until smooth and creamy. Adjust the seasoning with salt and white pepper if needed.

Off heat and just before serving, stir in the butter, a spoonful at a time until melted and garnish with croutons and chives or parsley

The lentils were added to thicken the soup (instead of rice) and also for their nutritional value. The butter is added at the end to add a bit of depth and richness. It is of course optional. You can add cream instead if you'd like. Croutons are just so much fun in creamy soups.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Chamomile and Pink Peppercorn Shortbread Cookies #Drop

Chamomile and pink peppercorn is quite the herbie combo for a dessert. And it totally works. These slightly sweet shortbread cookies have a sophisticated flair to them. They almost demand that you sit back with a cup of hot tea and enjoy a few moments of leisure.

Why does pink peppercorn work so well here? It' because it's not a true peppercorn (it's a berry). Although it does contain a bit of pepper flavor, it also has a citrus note to it. Pink peppercorn is actually related to cashews (if you have a nut allergy, you may want to proceed with caution).

I found out about these delightful cookies on a new app called Drop which is extremely fun and quite honestly, rather ingenious. In a nutshell, it's an interactive kitchen scale that uses an app which is downloaded onto your iPad .

I recently had the opportunity to give this little gem a try and see what it's all about. After a quick company background and overview by the CEO, a group of us gathered around the kitchen and started playing. Cookies, muffins, both savory and sweet were made that evening. All were easy. All were tasty and all were deliciously fun!

The scale connects to your iPad via wifi. You select one of the many recipes from the app and do as it tells you. For example, "place a large bowl on the scale", which it then promptly adjusts back to zero. "Add a cup of flour". Rather than having to measure the flour, you pour it in and the app tells you when you've reached 1 cup (based on weight rather than volume). Brilliant!

Drop will basically hold your hand as it walks you through the recipe, step by step. It includes videos and photos of what your progress should look like. It goes as far as including a timer, which you can program to alert your cellphone when your dish is done baking!

I love it! There's something a bit liberating about baking without doing the measuring. The only thing that really needs to be measured are small quantities such as teaspoons. I mean, the weight of a teaspoon of baking soda is almost non-existent, right? Totally understandable.

Oh, I almost forgot another fun little "plus". Baking can be messy. (no, it doesn't clean up after you) and who wants to touch their iPad screen with gooey fingers? No need with Drop! As you're going through the recipe steps, if you need to hit next....just press the front of the scale itself. Bingo! Much easier to clean the scale than the screen.

If you want to use the scale on it's own (without one of the recipes on the app), you can do so, but it will need to be communicating with your iPad.

So, I brought my cute little smart kitchen scale home, borrowed my friends iPad (ya....now I need an iPad. Seriously!) and started playing. And that's where these Chamomile and Pink Peppercorn Shortbread Cookies came in....

Chamomile and Pink Peppercorn Shortbread Cookies

Recipe from Drop

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon chamomile tea (dry, from the tea bag)
1 teaspoon ground pink peppercorn
Sugar to sprinkle on cookies

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Set aside

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, chamomile and pink peppercorn.

Add to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until dough forms. In this case, it's a dry dough....not like...say, your typical sugar cookie dough by any means. I tested the readiness by placing it in my hand and squeezing it to see if it would hold together.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 340' F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface roll the dough out to about 1/8th inch. If the edges split, just press them back together.

Cut into desired shape (I used a knife and made simple rectangles).

Using a spatula, carefully transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheet.

Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for about 8 minutes, or until the edges are a light golden color.

So light and delicate in both flavor and form. Fun to make and a delight to eat.

With the holidays coming up, Drop would make the perfect gift for the new baker or even the experienced baker who has everything!