Saturday, April 10, 2010

green days, green purees

This weekend has already been awesome because it has involved not one but TWO impromptu hikes, and impromptu hikes are the best ever! Yesterday afternoon we took a trip to Great Falls on the Virginia side- pretty scenery, amazing view of the falls, enjoyable ramble.

Today we went to the Maryland side, to the Billy Goat Trail- the HARDCORE HIKING side of the falls!

We got some SERIOUS exercise- see those little people shaped dots on that sheer rock face? Yeah, we climbed that.


We admired the springtimey foliage:


I always have mixed feelings about spring, because the flowers bursting into bloom are beautiful but also try to kill me via their pollen. But so far, Zyrtec is comin’ through for me. Fingers crossed.

Oh oh oh oh man there were SUNBATHING TURTLES! I love, love, love, love to the point of weirdness, turtles. They are just so cute and cranky and wise. And they were sunbathing! In a little turtle sunbathing club! So so so fantastic.


This being a food blog, our midpoint refueling was a split Clif Mojo Bar (it really is just a candy bar, but at least it's mostly organic!), and water (we reuse the plastic bottles, promise! Though yeah yeah it’s dangerous and will give you cancer. You can’t win.)


I came home ready to chew my arm off, so we had hearty man food: meat and (sweet) potatoes. The yams were on sale and of colossal proportions- this, the smallest, was like 10 ounces. They are the XMen of yams.


So, I’ve been out in the elements looking at lots of green. I love green. I love spring.

Green edible things win too! And I’ve got a house full of them. The thing is… somewhat frighteningly, even dangerously full of them, due to making that fabulous fennel and watercress salad and buying more than we needed:

fennel salad

The thing about green things is that they are also rather highly perishable. And the thought of good greens going bad in MY house is heresy.

My solution to all of this?

Puree, puree!

Watercress Bisque

8 oz. fresh watercress

(I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is. See? That’s what happens with green leafy plants. Oh, wonderful plants)


1 cup veg/chicken/whatever stock (I used homemade, of course!)
1 cup lowfat buttermilk

Puree in a blender (though I have a food processor, I always use the blender for soups now due to a SERIOUSLY UNFORTUNATE incident making chilled beet soup last summer where I had food processor failure and a pink countertop for a week!)

When I pureed those in, it definitely needed some richness. I rummaged through the fridge and came up with:


I had vaguely heard of labneh but my sister (who goes to Tulane and seems to spend an unfair proportion of her life eating delicious food!) had tried it a few times at a Middle Eastern restaurant in NoLa and insisted we get it at the Greek store for the party. It was a hit!

Anyway, don’t let the “kefir” and “probiotics” claims all over it- it is good and rich, and definitely something to be enjoyed in moderation- a 2 tbsp serving is 60 calories, so it’s about on a par with regular cream cheese. It definitely gave the richness I wanted!

Sooo back to the recipe:

2 T labneh (you could also use something like cream cheese, creme fraiche, Greek yogurt, sour cream, etc.- if you use something with a lower fat content, probably use MORE- I got away with using such little labneh cause it’s so rich!)
1 tsp. honey
dashes of salt, pepper, and nutmeg

Combine and puree. Chill.

Final product:


First and foremost this soup tastes like watercress- if you don’t like its pepperiness and thinks it should be cut with lots of cream, you won’t like it. But if you love it for its peppery pep, this soup was quite refreshing. We had it the first night with leftover lamb, and it was a vair nice pairing- kind of a twist on lamb and mint sauce.

Then I had it again with lunch a few days later and ohhhh my goodness. If you can, make this soup in advance because it is a squajillion times more delicious a few days after being made! Oh, flavors.

Fennel next:


The recipe called for 1 fennel bulb. I had mandolined 3 total and used a bunch and had about 10 ounces remaining. 1 bulb? Sure.

Also, yes, that’s a produce bag. If you have leftover things but don’t want your entire refrigerator filled up with partially filled tupperwares, just use a freezer bag or a produce bag- you can just stack ‘em up on each other! They’re great for prewashed vegetables, precooked meat in chunks, etc.

So for a fab fennel recipe, I turned to The Philosopher's Kitchen, a Mediterranean cookbook with recipes inspired by those mentioned in ancient Greek and Roman texts (so cool, right?!) with recipe photos that have a serious serious effect on one’s salivary glands. My grandma had given it to me as a gift :D

So obvi, I made another puree! It’s copyrighted, but I’ll talk you through the steps (I tweaked it, anyway)


First I sauteed an onion in enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a pan on medium heat for about ten minutes.


Then added my fennel and cooked it til it was brown and smelled like heaven (the cookbook recipe also included celery- I didn’t have it and didn’t feel like trekking to the store just to get celery. It was still good!)

Then I added 1 tsp ground coriander and my homemade stock:


I got such a great rich color this time! And discovered that yes, you can make stock in a crockpot and then you can run in and out of the house on errands not worried about it burning down!

Add the stock, bring it to a boil, and simmer until the fennel is super soft. Because my fennel had been sliced super-thinly by the mandoline, this only took 15 minutes- thicker slices would take longer.

Remove from heat and finish with fresh herbs:


I used a lil bit of parsley (all we had left) and a whole lotta mint. She called for cilantro rather than parsley, but we didn’t have any (but I do love it!).

I also added honey and vinegar (she called for sherry, which I didn't have, so I used apple cider cause I love apples with fennel!).

Then I finished it off with my great love, my immersion blender!


It was soooooooo good. Fennel is one of my favorite ingredients, and it’s so fun partly because it’s two ingredients in one- it tastes COMPLETELY different raw and cooked (and I love both forms!)


The texture was also scrumptious- so summery! Can a texture be summery? Yes. It can. Because I said so.

I think because this reminded me of a warmer, springtimier tasting gazpacho.


Astra Libris said...

Oooh, I feel like I have so much to talk about now - I loved this post! :-) Impromptu hikes are totally the best - I'm soooo psyched for you that you got to go on TWO this weekend! Very impressive rock climbing, too!

The Philosopher's Kitchen sounds like the coolest cookbook!! Even though I have waaay too many cookbooks on the shelf already (well, I take that back, one can never have too many cookbooks :-) I'm definitely adding this one to the top of my wish list! Especially 'cause oh mercy, does the fennel soup look heavenly... and I'm delighted by any excuse to play with an immersion blender! :-)

I LOVE labneh! I make homemade batches all the time, because there's a gorgeous plethora of Greek restaurants in NoLa that serve heavenly labneh, and now that we live in Georgia we miss our regular labneh jaunts... I'm super jealous that you have a Greek store with labneh near you! (The good kind of jealous, ya know... :-)

Jess said...

I'm so glad you have had such an awesome weekend! Hooray for hiking and tasty foods!
<3 jess

Anonymous said...

Ahh, watercress is amazing. Labneh was such a discovery for me--moving in with a Greek introduced me to a variety of new ingredients: strained goat's yogurt, feta, and labneh in particular.

Nature is beautiful! Never be averse to sharing those photos--I love that rustic shizz. (See name.)

MelindaRD said...

Very pretty looking soup action. I have never heard of Labneh but I would love to try it, if I could ever come across some.