Hearty Split Pea Soup

Split Pea Soup with Fried Egg  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Split Pea Soup with Fried Egg | Image: Laura Messersmith

I originally wrote this post pre November 8th and couldn’t bring myself to publish it until now. I honestly felt silly writing about food and cooking after such a disappointing and troubling election outcome (understatement.) But, we will need nourishment for the struggle and if any recipe could offer that it’s this one. So without further apology…

It’s beginning to feel more and more wintery – the wind is whipping, the wool sweater brigade is in full effect, and I’ve found myself Pinning holiday ideas even though the Halloween candy hasn’t been distributed. While in some ways I wish I could hold off the really frigid part of winter, there’s something so cozy about a blustery, wet day.

I’d love to return home to a fire crackling away, but since our apartment doesn’t run to wood-burning fire places (probably for the best) instead I’ve been on the hunt for new soups and stews to lend that necessary warmth. I’ve been scouring the Bon Appetit archives and finding so many treasures that I think my cookbook collection is starting to feel neglected. So be it, because this soup is too good to keep to myself.

Split Pea Soup with Fried Egg  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Split Pea Soup with Fried Egg | Image: Laura Messersmith

The humble combination of green split peas and potatoes are elevated by a rich blend of onions, leeks, and garlic; and studded with bits of smoky ham. It’s a healthful, satisfying dish that rewards the patient cook, but amazingly requires minimal hands-on time. As with other slow-cooked recipes, this soup only grows in power overnight, so make extra.

Full disclosure: the first time I made this recipe I completely misjudged the amount of liquid needed and ended up with more of a split pea hash than soup. I was afraid that I had completely ruined a perfectly good soup, but a quick taste revealed that the flavors were wonderful and tasted even better when topped with a fried egg. Highly recommend this approach when serving!

Split Pea Soup with Fried Egg  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Split Pea Soup with Fried Egg | Image: Laura Messersmith

Hearty Split Pea Soup (serves 6-8)

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup (1 medium) chopped onion
1 cup (2 medium) chopped leeks, white and pale-green parts only
1/2 cup (2 stalks) chopped celery
2 tablespoons (4 cloves) minced garlic
2 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 cups (2 medium) small diced Yukon Gold potatoes
1/3 pound (1 cup) minced smoked ham
8 fresh thyme stems
2 bay leaves
2 cups (16 ounces) dried green split peas
8 cups (32 ounces) chicken broth

Instructions:
Prepare the vegetables, chopping the onion, leeks, and celery into fine dice and mincing the cloves of garlic.

In a large French oven, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the vegetables and sauté for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent. Season with a sprinkle of kosher salt, about 1/2 teaspoon.

Meanwhile, wash the potatoes and cut into small dice (no need to remove the skins!) and finely mince the ham. Add the potatoes and the minced ham to the pot and cook for 8-10 minutes until the potatoes begin to soften. Season with another 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper.

Tie the thyme stems together with kitchen twine (it will make them easier to remove later) and add to the pot along with the bay leaves, dried split peas, and chicken broth.

Increase the temperature to medium-high and bring the soup up to a low boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours stirring occasionally to keep the soup from burning or sticking. The soup is ready when the potatoes are very soft and have begun to break down and thicken the broth. Check the seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaves and thyme stems. Serve with toasted rye croutons, a dollop of sour cream, a fried egg, or parmesan toast.

Small Kitchen Friendly?
100%. I used a large French oven (5.5qt), a chef’s knife, medium cutting board, measuring cups and spoons, along with a flat sided wooden spoon. That’s it!

Split Pea Soup with Fried Egg  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Split Pea Soup with Fried Egg | Image: Laura Messersmith

Cannellini Beans with Spinach

Cannellini Beans with Spinach  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Cannellini Beans with Spinach | Image: Laura Messersmith

After an odd few days of 80 degree temperatures in New York we’re back to the weather I associate most with late October. Weather more in the vein of “a dark and stormy night” full of windy breezes that swirl the leaves and pulse with energy straight from Ghostbusters.

It’s days like today that absolutely call for something simple, warming, and earthy. A dinner that calls to mind the safety of hearth and home; simmering merrily on the stovetop through the afternoon then bringing family to gather around the table. As written this is a dish reminiscent of a Tuscan stew – creamy beans, bright lemon, leafy spinach – but with a bit more chicken stock could easily translate into a wintery soup. Even better? With just a quick swap in of vegetable stock for the broth you’ll have a fantastic main course that I’d be proud to serve to any vegetarian.

Cannellini Beans with Spinach  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Cannellini Beans with Spinach | Image: Laura Messersmith

Stews always improve with a bit of time to think about what they’ve done, and so this is also a dish that I would absolutely make extras of and squirrel away in the freezer for use this winter when something cozy is just the ticket. Perfect with a slice of crusty bread toasted and rubbed with garlic or a sprinkle of parmesan melted on top.

Cannellini Beans with Spinach (serves: 8)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups dried cannellini beans
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise; plus 2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 sage leaves
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 bunches mature spinach, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Instructions:
Place the dried beans in a large French oven or bowl and cover with double the amount of water. Cover and allow to soak for 16-24 hours at room temperature.

Drain the beans and return them to the pot. Bring beans, head of garlic, sage, 3 tablespoonsolive oil, and 6 cups chicken broth to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat, add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and simmer gently until beans are creamy all the way through but skins are still intact, 35–45 minutes. Some of the beans will break down slightly and thicken the broth. Let cool while you move onto the spinach.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large deep sauté pan over medium. Cook crushed garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring, just until garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Working in batches, add spinach, letting it wilt slightly before adding more, and cook, tossing often, until leaves are just wilted, about 5 minutes; season with salt.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer beans to sauté pan with spinach and cook, tossing gently, until beans are warmed through. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup bean cooking liquid and toss, adding more cooking liquid if needed, until coated. The mixture should be closer to a sauce than a soup in consistency. Be careful not to over cook or the beans will begin to break down. Taste and season with salt as needed. Serve drizzled with oil and a slice of toasted crusty bread.

Do Ahead: Beans can be cooked 3 days ahead. Keep in cooking liquid; cover and chill. Cook spinach and seasonings when ready to serve.

Re-written and lightly adapted from Bon Appetit’s Cannellini Beans with Spinach by Rita Sodi & Jody Williams.

Cannellini Beans with Spinach  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Cannellini Beans with Spinach | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used a 6 qt. French oven, large deep sauté pan, fine mesh sieve, medium cutting board, chef’s knife, liquid measuring cup, slotted spoon, microplane grater, and measuring spoons.

Cannellini Beans with Spinach  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Cannellini Beans with Spinach | Image: Laura Messersmith

Simple White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet | Image: Laura Messersmith

Apologies for the radio silence here over the past week – it’s been a busy one full of new projects and just like that project numero uno was shifted to the back burner. Which is sad because it means I’ve been withholding this fantastic recipe for a simple cassoulet from you for weeks. I realize we’re coming to the end of winter and maybe you’re reaching the end of your bean-eating rope, I know I couldn’t stand the sight of another bowl of chili.

But here’s the thing – winter hasn’t really let us go yet, I swear every time I even think about leaving the apartment without a hat it goes rainy and cold here. So, an amazing dish (that takes almost zero effort) is a good thing to have in your back pocket for those busy weeks when there’s just no time to cook, let alone grocery shop, and dinnertime has arrived. Here’s your solve:

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet | Image: Laura Messersmith

Simple White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet (serves 4-6)

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups (1 medium) finely chopped yellow onion, finely chopped
3 teaspoons (2 medium cloves) finely minced garlic
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 pound kielbasa, cut into 1-inch slices
1 can (28 ounce) crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1 can (15 ounce) chicken broth
2 cans (15 ounce) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Instructions:
Heat the olive oil and chopped onions in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté the onions for 7-8 minutes or until they soften and turn translucent.

Reduce the heat to low and add the minced garlic. Cook 1 more minute taking care not to let the garlic burn. Add the kielbasa slices and thyme leaves to the pot and stir to combine.

Pour in the crushed tomatoes and chicken broth and stir in the drained and rinsed cannellini beans and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. Bring the cassoulet up to low boil over medium heat.

Partially cover the pot and turn the heat down to lo. Simmer for at least one hour stirring occasionally, to allow the liquid to reduce and the cassoulet to develop its flavors.

Check the seasoning and add salt to taste as well as the chopped parsley. Serve with toasted multi-grain bread or baguette.

Recipe re-written and adapted from Real Simple’s Slow Cooker Kielbasa and White Bean Cassoulet by Rachel Soszynski.

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
100% I used a 5.5qt dutch oven, medium cutting board, chef’s knife, sieve, and measuring cups and spoons. Throw in a wooden spatula and you’re good to go!

The Verdict:
I’ve mentioned before that the way I know a recipe is a winner is when Mike is willing to eat it more than once in a week or even have leftovers the very next day. This was such a recipe – hearty, satisfying, and with a different flavor profile than spicy chili. I always think of cassoulet as a French dish, but this one leans heavily on Italian influences too, just veering away from basil at the last second back into Provence with the addition of thyme. Save this one for the next cold weekend and cross your fingers that you won’t need it until October!

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

White Bean & Kielbasa Cassoulet | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lemony Artichoke Heart Stuffed Shells

Lemony Artichoke Heart Stuffed Shells  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Lemony Artichoke Heart Stuffed Shells | Image: Laura Messersmith

Between magazines, Pinterest, Instagram, and cookbooks at any given time I feel like there are about 1,000 recipes I’m dying to make. I try to be organized, but somehow there’s a notepad on my phone for those moments when inspiration strikes on the go (or as I’m drifting off to sleep), a Word document roughly organized by month/season, and of course multiple Pinterest boards all collecting ideas.

If I’m lucky I cook the recipe straightaway, but others I’m saving for the right occasion when the dish and the eaters are just meant for each other. That was the case here. I’ve been meaning to make this recipe from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook for nearly six months, rather a long time to wait.

As much as I love baked pasta dishes it’s tough when there are only two people to eat it, so there I am: waiting to make this recipe until the stars aligned and we could lure some folks to the neighborhood for dinner. Thank goodness too, because this dish is everything I hoped it would be - like homemade mac and cheese taken to a grown-up place by the addition of lemon, white wine, and sautéed artichokes. If that's not reason enough, how about this: you can completely assemble the dish up to a day in advance and bake it when you're ready to eat. A make ahead dish that feels special enough for company? Yes, please!

Lemony Artichoke Heart Stuffed Shells   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Lemony Artichoke Heart Stuffed Shells | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lemony Artichoke Heart Stuffed Shells (serves 4-6)

Shell Ingredients:
25-30 jumbo pasta shells (about a 12-ounce box, I used Barilla)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped small
18 ounces frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and patted dry
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup (1 1/4 ounces) finely grated Romano cheese
1 cup (1 1/2 ounces) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Sauce Ingredients:
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
3 teaspoons (2-3 cloves) minced garlic
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Instructions:
Make the Filling:

Melt butter in a heavy 12-inch skillet and cook it until it turns nutty and brown, stirring occasionally to keep the solids moving on the bottom of the pan. Once it is a nice nutty brown, add 1 tablespoon olive oil, then the onions and cook them until they are lightly brown and caramelized, about 7 minutes. Add the artichoke hearts and cook them until they are softened a bit, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook it until it completely disappears.

Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool slightly, before transferring it to the bowl of a food processor. Add both cheeses, the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and black pepper and pulse in the food processor until roughly chopped. You want a mixture with some texture, not a puree.

Note: If you don’t have a food processor, then make sure to cut your onions quite small and chop the artichokes on the fine side before cooking. Follow the instructions as written, then once the filling cools mix it in a large bowl.

Cook the Pasta:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the shells just shy of al dente. Check the box to see if there are cook times for shells that will be baked - Barilla recommends 9 minutes, which was perfect. Drain and toss with a teaspoon or two of olive oil, to keep them from sticking.

Make the Sauce:
While the shells are cooking, melt the butter in a medium saucepan (or the wiped out pot you made the artichoke filling in, if you’re into spending less time scrubbing pots) over medium-high heat. Once melted, add the flour all at once and whisk it until smooth. Add the milk, a small glug at a time, whisking constantly so no lumps form. Once the mixture has reached a batter-like consistency, you can begin adding the milk in larger pours at a time, whisking the whole time. Once all the milk is added, add the garlic and bring the sauce to a boil, stirring frequently. Once boiling, it will immediately begin to thicken. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for two to three minutes before stirring in the ricotta, lemon juice, salt and black pepper, and chopped parsley. Adjust salt, pepper and lemon to taste.

Assemble the Dish:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Layer about half the sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Press a generous tablespoon of artichoke filling inside each cooked shell – a cookie scoop will be useful – so that the shell is full, but the sides can still meet. I found that resting the pasta on a cutting board using one hand to hold the edges apart and the other to scoop worked best. Nest each pasta shell in the sauce, seam up. Spoon the remaining sauce over the shells. Cover the dish with foil and bake it for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake it for a final 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Individual Servings – Divide about half the sauce among 6 oven safe baking dishes (I used 16 ounce ramekins), divide the stuffed shells (5-6 shells fit snugly) among each dish and top with the remaining sauce as above. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F, followed by 5 minutes uncovered.

Make Ahead – Assemble the dish (or dishes) and cover each in foil. Refrigerate up to 24 hours. Add 3-5 minutes to the original baking times.

Recipe re-written and slightly adapted from Deb Perelman’s Artichoke Stuffed Shells in the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (pg. 125 ) link via Bon Appetit.

Lemony Artichoke Heart Stuffed Shells   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Lemony Artichoke Heart Stuffed Shells | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, with organization. I used one large sauce pan, one large, deep sauté pan, a medium food processor, 9x13” baking dish (or 6 individual - the dishes pictured are Corningware 16 ounce ramekins), a colander, and a medium cutting board.

For tools I used a chef’s knife, microplane zester, a liquid measuring cup, measuring spoons, 1 tablespoon cookie scoop, rubber spatula, whisk, and a ladle or large spoon.

The Verdict:
Considering how fantastic the flavors are I fervently hope your stars hurry up and get their ducks in a row, because no one (even the artichoke adverse) should have to wait long to eat this dish. I bumped up the lemon zest a bit and added the parsley to the sauce, rather than sprinkling it on top to give the dish a subtle fresh note and make sure it didn’t become too heavy. Seconds were had by all and some simply roasted Brussels sprouts made the perfect accompaniment. All in all, a successful mid-winter dinner!

Lemony Artichoke Heart Stuffed Shells   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Lemony Artichoke Heart Stuffed Shells | Image: Laura Messersmith