Butter and Herb New Potatoes.

New potatoes are those little guys you see in spring and summer. They’re not fully grown when they’re harvested, hence the “new.” At a farmer’s market on Saturday morning, I found a whole big basket full of baby marbled potatoes, so I took a few home to cook for dinner. A word to the wise about this recipe: the whole time the potatoes and shallots were browning, I was cursing myself for having no bacon in the house. If you’re lucky enough to have it on hand, USE IT! And don’t you dare feel any food guilt afterward: potatoes, shallots, bacon, butter–that’s the price you pay for authentic French flavor. Just enjoy it.

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups new potatoes
garlic thyme olive oil
small shallot, diced
thyme
parsley
salt
pepper
pad of cold butter

DIRECTIONS

Wash potatoes thoroughly. Place in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, let boil for  2 minutes, then drain.

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add potatoes and shallot and cook until browned.

When browned to your liking, remove from heat. Sprinkle lightly with parsley and thyme, and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in butter until melted. Serve plain, or with sour cream.

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Vichyssoise.

There is a lovely vegetable soup called vichyssoise, named for Vichy, the spa town in central France. Whether the soup is French at all is up for debate, though; Julia Child claims the recipe is an American creation. Questionable authenticity aside, this potato and leek puree is an easy, elegant dish that’s pretty simple to make. Served either cold or hot, it’s a versatile dish perfect for unpredictable spring days.

INGREDIENTS

2 large leeks (or 3 medium ones), white and light green parts only, sliced and rinsed thoroughly
1 medium onion, rough chop
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 medium potatoes, washed, large dice; peel if desired (I leave the skins on–see below*)
chicken stock or water (I used homemade chicken stock)
salt and pepper to taste
butter
half and half or heavy cream

DIRECTIONS

Heat a Dutch oven or other large soup pot on medium and add a pad of butter. When butter is melted, add leeks, onion, and celery, and cook until softened but not browned.

Add potatoes and just enough chicken stock or water to cover the vegetables. Season with salt, and don’t skimp on the pepper!

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cooking until potatoes are soft. Remove from heat and puree in batches; I like to pour the pureed soup through a strainer so that there are no lumps, just a smooth, thick soup.

*If you left the skins on your potatoes, like I did, you’re getting a second dish out of your vichyssoise! While straining into your soup bowl, reserve some of the potato puree in a separate bowl–say, 3/4 cup. After you’ve strained the soup, all the potato skins will be caught in the strainer. Scrape them out and mix them into the reserved potato puree for leek mashed potatoes!

Back to the soup. Whether you’re serving it cold or hot, there’s one last step before you dig in. Just before serving, stir in a healthy splash of half and half or cream and add a dash of salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley or chives. Croutons would be good, but I was fresh out. Oh well. Bon appetit!

Czech Goulash (Old recipe).

For the updated Czech Goulash recipe, click here.

This is my original recipe for goulash. I’ve since updated it, and I really like the new version much better – it’s more potently paprika-ed and also more authentic, in that it’s less like a chunky vegetable stew and more like the slow-cooked, warming, fortifying dish I ate in Prague. I recommend checking out the updated recipe instead, but in case this one tickles your fancy a little more, I didn’t want to delete it!

INGREDIENTS

3 tbsp olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped
2 lb stew beef, cubed
3 cloves garlic
4-6 celery stalks, chopped
4-6 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp caraway seed
3-5 tbsp flour, depending on desired thickness (I use all-purpose, but potato flour works just as well, for those with gluten allergies)
8 oz canned crushed tomato
3-5 cups cold water or stock
salt, pepper to taste
marjoram or parsley, sour cream for garnish
2 medium potatoes, boiled and cubed (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil over medium in Dutch oven or other large soup pot. Add onions and cook until transparent. Then add the beef and cook until browned.

Add garlic, paprika, caraway seed, salt, pepper, and flour, if you’re using it. Stir and cook about 2 minutes, careful not to let the seasonings burn. Then toss in the carrots and celery and cook another two or three minutes, until the seasonings coat the veggies and they start to soften.

Add tomatoes and some of the cold water or stock, adding more as needed throughout the process (goulash can be stew-ier or soup-ier, however you like it).

Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally. I go for 3 hours whenever I can, and it’s worth it!

Serve with sour cream and parsley or marjoram for garnish. If you’re using potatoes (which we keep separate to avoid making the soup too starchy) add them to your bowl just before serving.

Hasselback Potatoes.

Named after the Swedish restaurant Hasselbacken where they were first served in the 1970s, Hasselback potatoes are making a comeback  on tables across the world right now. They’re a lot more fun than a standard baked potato and they look so pretty when they come out all toasty and browned! You can play around with the seasoning or keep it very simple, but this recipe is for my personal favorite flavor combo.

INGREDIENTS
3 medium potatoes, skin-on and scrubbed
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp olive oil or melted butter
2 tbsp grated Parmesan (optional)
1 tsp parsley
pinch of hot paprika
salt, pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Prepare the potatoes. Partially-cut each potato into thin slices, careful not to cut all the way through, so that the potato stays whole. This will create a fan effect when baked.

Combine all remaining ingredients. Using a butter knife, spread the mixture in between each slit. Rub the remaining mixture on the skin of the potato.

Place on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown and fanned open, about  an hour. Serve right out of the oven with sour cream.

UPDATE: Tonight I tried this exact same recipe, but with a sweet potato, and it was fabulous. I don’t know about you, but sweet potatoes are already sweet enough for me, so I never add sweeteners when I prepare them. If you feel the same way, then try using a sweet potato instead for a healthier version of this tasty dish.

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup.

As I mentioned in my post on Irish Brown Bread, Irish cooking isn’t the most sophisticated of world cuisines. Their bread is one exception, and their soups are another. This five-step root vegetable puree is perfect for chilly weather and involves more waiting than actual preparation/tending — very low maintenance. It’s a yummy, healthy soup that will warm you from the inside out!

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INGREDIENTS

4 parsnips, peeled and sliced

4-6 carrots, peeled and sliced

1 onion, sliced

1 sweet potato, cubed

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp dried thyme

3 tbsp olive oil, divided

2 large leeks, thoroughly washed and sliced (just the white and light green parts)

1 bay leaf

5-8 cups vegetable broth

salt and pepper

Just the Recipe link: Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, combine parsnips, carrots, onion, sweet potato, garlic, ginger, cumin, thyme, and 2 tbsp olive oil. Toss to coat. Spread a single layer onto foil-lined pans and roast until starting to caramelize.

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Heat the last tbsp of oil on medium low in a Dutch oven or other large pot and add leeks and bay leaf. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft.

Add the roasted veggies and broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender.

Remove bay leaf, puree in batches, and enjoy. “Enjoy” is best done with lots of buttered Irish Brown Bread!

Minestrone

I love any recipe with a mirepoix, and minestrone soup is no exception. A tasty Italian classic with a simple country elegance, minestrone is as easy as it is beautiful. It’s a fairly basic vegetable soup in a tomato broth,  but packs a vegetable punch and is a healthy way to warm up on a chilly day!


INGREDIENTS
1 large onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped (leaves included)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large potato, cubed
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed, leaves chopped
14 oz canned crushed tomato
5 cups vegetable broth
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
olive oil
herbs de Provence
salt
pepper

DIRECTIONS

In a large pot, heat oil on medium and add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic.

When onion is soft, stir in potato. Top mixture with chard and herbs de Provence and cover. Allow the chard to cook until beginning to soften.

Then add tomato and broth and stir. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

In a food processor, puree beans with 1/4 cup water until smooth. Stir bean puree and Parmesan cheese into soup and season with salt and pepper. Cook 10-15 minutes more.

Remove from heat and serve with bread or over pasta.