Breakfast Soup of Spinach and Scallion with Sieved Egg

My very first cookbook, a gift for my 20th birthday, was Michael Field’s Cooking School.  Michael Field was an acclaimed concert pianist who later turned his creativity to cooking. He became equally renowned in culinary endeavors as a

Photo © by Rick Wise

Photo © by Rick Wise

chef, cooking teacher, and editor of the first, priceless Time/Life Foods of the World series. (There was, later, a second series, equally priceless, edited by Richard Olney.) I think I made every delicious, enlightening recipe from that birthday book over the next several years as I reveled in the magic and joy of cooking, suffered the inevitable failures of the novice, and honed techniques from his explicit instructions. He became, undoubtedly, my first mentor, before I even knew my career path would lead me to the kitchen.

A spinach soup with scallions and not a lot else except for chicken broth became one of my “return to” favorites. The love has lasted, with very little tweaking except that I always use fresh, not frozen, spinach because it’s readily available year round these days, usually already cleaned! The soup is so refreshing and so simple to make it can be ready, start to finish, in less than 30 minutes. Currently, I like it for breakfast, a warm (reheats beautifully in the microwave) and savory encouragement to meet the day, especially with the sieved egg for added protein.

Serves 4

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup (filtered) water

1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions, including tops

16 packed cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach

2 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

5 cups chicken broth (link)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Place the eggs in a small saucepan, add water to cover, cover the pan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn off the heat and let sit for 9 minutes. Drain and add cold water to cool. Peel and set aside.

2. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the water and scallions, stir to mix, and cook, still over medium heat, until the scallions are thoroughly wilted, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the half the spinach to the pot, cover, and cook until the spinach wilts enough to make room for the second half, 2 or 3 minutes. Add the remaining spinach and garlic, cover, and cook again until wilted down, 2 or 3 minutes.

4. Add the broth and salt, stir to mix, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to maintain a brisk simmer, partially cover, and cook until the spinach is limp and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

4. Ladle the soup into individual bowls, grate hard boiled egg over each, and  serve.

French Lentils with Scallions and Feta Cheese

Around the world, in colors ranging from brown to yellow, green, white (!), and red, lentils provide culinary goodness across the courses–appetizers to entrees.

Photos © by Rick Wise. Click on any photo to see it full screen.

Photos © by Rick Wise. Click on any photo to see it full screen.

Continue reading

Trending Home with Potato, Leek, and Celery Soup

My mother had a repertoire of soups she made from scratch. It wasn’t a huge list, just three strong, but that was perfectly sufficient. They were potato soup, celery soup, and beef soup with tomatoes and carrots. Staunchly unvaried,

Photo © by Rick Wise. Left click on the image to see it full screen.

Photo © by Rick Wise. Left click on the image to see it full screen.

Continue reading

Lamb Shanks Braised in Red Wine with Dried Figs and Turnips

The shank is a cut from the bottom, below the knee, of either the foreleg or the hind leg of the animal, in this case lamb. The hind leg shanks are larger and

Photos © by Rick Wise. Click on a photo to see it full screen.

Photos © by Rick Wise. Click on a photo to see it full screen.

Continue reading

A Savory Pear Side for Autumn and Winter

Pears are so convertible. Top up or top down, they breeze through town lending a bit of culinary exotica to the dark days of winter. Cooked, they provide a welcome blast of fruity, subtly spicy perfume for many a dessert, think pear tarts,  pears poached in syrup of one sort or another, etc., etc., etc. And then there are cooked pears, not sweetened, that lend an aura of mystery to the savory side of the menu. One such is this, adapted from my latest cookbook Bold: A Cookbook

Glazed and roasted Bartlett and Comice Pears. Photo © bt Rick Wise. Left click on the photo to see it full screen.

Glazed and roasted Bartlett and Comice pears. Photo © by Rick Wise. Left click on the photo to see it full screen.

of Big Flavors (Workman, Dec. 2013), co-authored with Susanna Hoffman. While we designed the dish to accompany roast duck, it easily segues to almost any warming meat, poultry, or game dish. Continue reading

Walnut Bundt Cake Soaked in Coffee Syrup

In a step outside the tradition of “rectangular,” I like to bake syrup-soaked cakes in a Bundt pan, basically a fluted tube pan, because the shape of the pan, with

Walnut cake oozing coffee syrup. Photos © by Rick Wise. Click on any image to see it full screen.

Walnut cake oozing coffee syrup.
Photos © by Rick Wise. Click on any image to see it full screen.

Continue reading

Grilled Lamb and Almond Meatballs with Olive, Tomato, and Parsley Vinaigrette

Around the world, meatballs are a cook’s home way with sausage making, not much fuss to put together and no casing required. In particular, lamb meatballs spiked with one kind of nut or another–walnuts, pine nuts, or almonds–are masterful fare found in various renditions throughout the Mediterranean. With their delicate yet hearty taste, small balls of them are exactly right to anchor a late summer/early fall grill party. Or, if it’s to be an indoor party, skewer and broil them or saute them without the skewers.

Photos © by Rick Wise. Left click on any photo to see it full screen.

The vivid little yellow/orange cherry tomatoes I used for the sauce in this photo were from my neighbor, Keith Fullington’s, backyard. They’re the first in a second generation, locally grown tomato plant he has developed to produce year round! Photos © by Rick Wise. Left click on any photo to see it full screen.

Parsley, though seldom as loudly lauded as some of its flashier herb kin, is a major player in both the meatballs and the snap-to-make vinaigrette sauce in this recipe. When the tomatoes aren’t so fine, i.e., in winter, just omit the tomatoes and stir in a teaspoon of rich tomato paste instead. Or, alternatively, avgolemeno sauce  makes a good substitute.

Makes about eighteen 1 1/4-inch meatballs

1 pound ground lamb, preferably from the shoulder

3 tablespoons blanched almonds, finely ground but not pulverized

1 large clove garlic, minced or pressed

Parsley is a major player in both the meatballs and the snap-to-make olive and tomato vinaigrette sauce. To make the sauce, in a small bowl, combine: 1 cup tiny yellow tomatoes, halved (1/3 cup) or 2 medium red tomatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (2/3 cup), 8 kalamata or other good quality black olives, pitted and chopped, not too finely (2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons) 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Mix together and set aside at room temperature for up to 2 hours to marry and mellow before using.

To make the Olive, Tomato, and Parsley Vinaigrette, in a small bowl combine:
1 cup tiny cherry tomatoes, halved (1/3 cup) or 2 medium red tomatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (2/3 cup),
8 kalamata or other good quality black olives, pitted and chopped, not too finely (2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Mix together and set aside at room temperature for up to 2 hours before using.

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley leaves

2 heaping teaspoons chopped fresh mint leaves

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/4 cup red wine

Olive, Tomato, and Parsley Vinaigrette, for serving (see the sidebar)

1. Combine the lamb, almonds, garlic, mint, parsley, cayenne, salt, and wine  in a large bowl and mix with your hands until well blended. Saute a small piece so you can taste it for salt and other seasonings. Adjust the seasonings if necessary, mixing them in well. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight..

On BBQ-croppped-32. When ready to cook, prepare a hot grill. Roll the lamb mixture into small balls about 1 1/4-inches in diameter and thread the balls onto bamboo skewers (see the photo). Set aside in the refrigerator while the grill heats.

3. Make the sauce.

4. Place the lamb skewers on the grill rack directly over the heat source and cook until charred on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook until sizzling and charred on the other side, 1 to 2 minutes more. Serve right away with the sauce drizzled across the top.