Tag Archives: soups

Roasted Cauliflower & Garlic Soup

Yesterday, with the storm blowing outside, I was ready with a fist full of recipes. Sausage and Lentil Soup was already on the docket, along with sprouted wheat bread recipes, both dinner rolls and French bread.  Mid-morning, the creative process kicked in and this recipe lined up in my head like a military march.

I often wonder why these flashes of creativity strike during a shower, at 3:00 a.m., or when I am already committed to something else for the day. 

Oh well, I have learned to grab a pen and something to scratch it out on, because you can bet money on the fact it will NOT come back to me later.  Fortunately, I had more than the back of an envelope at hand, so the recipe made its way from my head to the paper.

Roasted cauliflower and roasted garlic … these would carry the show. 

Wanting it as creamy white as possible, I chose parsnips over carrots, and declined the notion of celery. Cauliflower creates a creamy texture all on its own once pureed, so a small amount of cream is all it took to hit the mark for texture.  Roasted garlic brings a smooth, deep flavor to quick soups, making it taste like it has simmered all day. Stir in extra roasted cauliflower just before serving, garnished with bacon and scallions for a little crunch and satisfying finish.

This recipe was so easy to put together it was ready in time for lunch with plenty of energy for my breads and lentil soup, which we had for dinner.

Roasted Cauliflower & Garlic Soup

Serves: 2
1      small head  garlic (8-10 cloves) — roasted
2     tablespoons  extra-virgin olive oil
1/2    small head  cauliflower — sliced 1/4″ thick
lemon pepper
2     slices  bacon — fried, crumbled
3/4   cup  parsnip — peeled and diced
1/2    cup  sweet onion — chopped
2      cups  chicken stock
2      tablespoons  cream
scallions — for garnish
sea salt — to taste
pepper — to taste

Heat oven to 400°F Cut top of garlic bulb off so that the majority of the cloves are exposed. Place in a small oven proof dish, pour 2 tablespoons olive oil over garlic bulb, and roast at for 30 minutes or until garlic is soft.

Arrange sliced cauliflower on a rimmed baking sheet, brush with additional olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2-1 teaspoon of the lemon pepper. Place in the oven beside the garlic and roast for about 10 minutes, stirring midway through, until cauliflower is lightly browned. Remove cauliflower from oven and set aside. When garlic is soft and top is lightly browned, remove from oven, place garlic bulb on a plate and let cool. Reserve roasted garlic oil for garnish, if desired.

Cook bacon in a medium sauce pan until crisp and fat is rendered. Drain on paper towel, crumble, and set aside. While bacon is cooking, finely chop 1/2 cup of the roasted cauliflower and reserve.

Cook onion and parsnip in bacon fat in the same sauce pan over med heat until vegetables are softened, about 5-6 minutes. Add cauliflower except for the reserved 1/2 cup to the onions and parsnips. Squeeze the garlic bulb from the bottom to remove garlic cloves and add cloves to the pot.

Pour 1 1/2 cups of the broth over the vegetables and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until vegetables are all cooked through.  Puree soup in a blender until smooth, return to sauce pan and add remaining broth, reserved cauliflower, and cream.

Heat on low for 2 minutes to heat through. Serve in warmed bowls and garnish with crumbled bacon, scallions, and drizzle with reserved roasted garlic olive oil.

Minestrone Soup with Blue Cheese-Parmesan Meatballs

Sunday is our day to rest, which includes a rest from cooking, so dinners throughout the week have to carry us through the weekend. As the weather turns colder, soup is ideal to comfort from the chill in the air, as well as provide for Sunday’s break from the kitchen.  I have had this Minestrone Soup recipe rolling around in my head for months. It is one of those things you have to get into the kitchen to work it out—even take an entire day just to make it as you imagined. Well, that’s how it is for me, anyway.

Yes, I’ve had those times when not all the tweaks and additions measure up to what my taste buds anticipated, though it is never a waste, I always learn. Fortunately, yesterday wasn’t one of those times :D.  This recipe turned to gold right before my eyes with beefy broth, loads of savory vegetables, and tender meatballs.

Rolling mini-meatballs can be a bit tedious, but I am a perfect bite kind of gal, so there has to be more than just a meatball on the spoon.  The blue cheese is subtle, blending with the Parmesan beautifully, packing deep flavor in each morsel—it was exactly as I imagined. If it is the perfect bite you’re after, you will want a hearty, crusty bread to soak up every drop of the delicious broth too.

Minestrone Soup with Blue Cheese-Parmesan Meatballs

Serves 8-10
For the Meatballs:
2          eggs
1/2      cup  milk
1 1/2   teaspoons  Worcestershire sauce
1/2      cup  bread crumbs [for gluten-free, use GF bread]
3/4     cup  Parmigiano-Reggiano — grated
1/4      cup  fresh parsley — minced
1           teaspoon sea salt
1           teaspoon  pepper
2          teaspoons  unrefined sugar
1/2      teaspoon  ground ginger
1/2      teaspoon  ground nutmeg
1/2      teaspoon  ground allspice
1          teaspoon  Italian seasoning
1          teaspoon  oregano
2         tablespoons  extra virgin olive oil
1          medium  onion — finely chopped
3         cloves  garlic — minced
1          pound  ground beef
1          pound  ground lamb
1/2      pound  hot Italian sausage — casing removed
1/4      cup  blue cheese — crumbled fine

For the Soup:
3        quarts  beef stock
2×3 piece  Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
4        tablespoons  extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2  cups  leeks — white and light green part only, coarsely chopped
1         cup  fennel bulb — sliced, then coarsely chopped
1         cup  celery — chopped
6         cloves  garlic — minced
1         cup  carrots — diced
1 1/2   cups  parsnips — diced
2         teaspoons  oregano
1/2     teaspoon  rosemary leaves — crushed fine
1/4     teaspoon  red pepper flakes
2         cans  diced tomatoes — crushed or pulsed in processor
1          can  red kidney beans — drained and rinsed
1 1/2   cups  dry pasta [for gluten-free, use Ancient Harvest Quinoa Shells]
3          cups  baby spinach leaves — lightly packed
1/2      cup  fresh parsley — minced
sea salt and pepper, to taste

For the Meatballs:
In a medium mixing bowl, beat eggs with milk and Worcestershire sauce.  Mix in the bread crumbs, Parmesan, parsley, salt, pepper, sugar, and spices; set aside.

Saute onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until softened.

Mix meats and blue cheese together, add egg and spice mixture and onions; mix thoroughly. Shape into small 1/2″ meatballs. Place meatballs on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Broil on HI until lightly browned, about 6-8 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on size of meatballs.  Break one open to be sure they are cooked through, extend cooking time if needed.

Set meatballs aside to finish the soup.  Note: This meatball recipe will produce more than is needed for the soup, though you can add as many as you like. Add the remaining meatballs to a pasta sauce or use for appetizers, simply freeze until ready to use.

For the Soup:
Pour beef stock into a soup pot and add a 2×3″ piece of Parmesan rind, bring to a low simmer (if you do not have Parmesan rind, grate some Parmesan into the stock). In a skillet over medium heat, saute leeks, fennel, and celery in half the olive oil until the vegetables begin to caramelize. Add garlic and continue to cook until garlic is fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add to the soup pot with stock.

In the same skillet, saute the carrots and parsnips in the other half of the olive oil over medium heat. Sprinkle with the oregano, rosemary, and red pepper flakes and cook until vegetables begin to brown lightly and herbs are fragrant. Add to the soup pot.

Crush the tomatoes by hand or in a food processor until desired consistency. Add tomatoes with juices to the pot along with the drained kidney beans and meatballs. Stir to combine and simmer until flavors meld and vegetables are cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Add dry pasta, spinach, and parsley to the soup and simmer an additional 15 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with more Parmesan and serve with crusty bread or Parmesan-Garlic toasts.

Note: This meatball recipe will produce more than is needed for the soup, though you can add as many as you like.  Add the remaining meatballs to a pasta sauce or use for appetizers, simply freeze until ready to use. A versatile soup, easy to substitute your favorite vegetables in place of any of those listed.

Shared on the following Blog Hops:
The Healthy Home Economist Monday Mania
Premeditated Leftovers Hearth & Soul Hop
SS&GF Slightly Indulgent Tuesday
Real Food Forager Fat Tuesday
The Nourishing Gourmet Pennywise Platter Thursday
Mom Trends Food Friday
Real Food Whole Health Fresh Bites Friday
EKat’s Kitchen Friday Potluck
Easy Natural Food Sunday Soup Night

Tuscan White Bean Soup with Broccoli Rabe: One Last Stirring of the Pot

As our One-Pot Blogger Party ends, we conclude with a hearty pot of Tuscan White Bean Soup—with soup, there is always enough for everyone.  Thank you for joining me over the last three weeks in reviewing Emeril’s newest collection of recipes in Simmering Skillets and Other One Pot Wonders.  I am honored Savoring Today was chosen to be part of this project it has been a privilege.

Special thanks to William Morrow Cookbooks, of Harper Collins Publishers, The Secret Ingredient, Emeril, and his team for inviting such a terrific group of bloggers to the party. Their team has been supportive, encouraging, and delightful throughout. If you haven’t already, please visit the other 19 One-Pot Bloggers, I think you will enjoy their culinary adventures very much.

Now for the final stirring of the pot…

Tuscan White Bean Soup with Broccoli Rabe is one of the recipes we are allowed to share in full, so I couldn’t pass up making a pot at home too. In a house full of carnivores it was hard to imagine making bean soup without ham or smoked turkey, but I wanted to stay as close to the original as possible.  Uncertain as I was about the lemon component of this soup, it worked!  It subtly blended into the background of the broth brightening other savories as well as the broccoli just a bit.

With the absence of meat, it seemed only appropriate to serve it with Bacon Irish Soda Bread, which proved a worthy companion.  I highly recommend cannellini beans—a larger, plump white bean with a creamy texture—and as with any soup, homemade stock is ideal for the base.  I hope you’ve been saving your Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rinds (I have extra if you live close-by) it is a wonderful flavor boost. Of course, shaved Parmesan to top it off is good too!

Tuscan White Bean Soup with Broccoli Rabe

Emeril's Tuscan White Bean Soup with Broccoli Rabe

This is a comforting, hearty soup with flavors reminiscent of northern Italy. We used baby lima beans because we just love their tender, creamy consistency, although in Italy it would likely be made with cannellini beans or great Northern beans. Use whichever beans you love or have on hand; just take note that the cooking time will vary slightly.

Yields 13 cups, about 6 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups small-diced onion
1 cup small-diced celery
1 cup small-diced red bell pepper
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
8 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
2 pounds dried white beans (cannellini, baby lima, or great Northern), rinsed, picked over, soaked overnight, and drained
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind, about 1 × 3 inches
1 bay leaf
4 cups water
1 ½ pounds broccoli rabe, tough stem ends trimmed, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated (about 1 ½ cups)
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

1. Heat the olive oil in an 8-quart soup pot or stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and ¼ teaspoon of the black pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, dried Italian herbs, and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the stock, beans, Parmesan rind, bay leaf, and water and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat to simmer gently and cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, 45 to 60 minutes.

2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer about 1 cup of the beans from the pot to a small bowl and mash them with the back of a spoon. Return the mashed beans to the soup and add the remaining 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and continue to cook, uncovered, until the broth thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Add the remaining black pepper, the broccoli rabe, and rosemary sprig and continue to cook until the broccoli rabe is just tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest and lemon juice. Remove the Parmesan rind, bay leaf, and rosemary sprig and discard them. Serve the soup in wide, shallow bowls, garnished with grated Parmesan and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Click on the Photo for Order Info

Emeril’s Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders is now available!
Cajun Shrimp Stew,
Spicy Vegetable Coconut Curry, Turkey Club Casserole, Wok-Seared Duck Salad, Rigatoni with A Beefy Mushroom Gorgonzola Sauce
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“BTL” Risotto and more than 130 other delectable recipes are compiled in this great cookbook.  Just click on the link or the photo to order yours and start enjoying them today.

Meet Emeril at “Sizzling Skillets” book tour! Check Emeril’s Newsroom for details and cities.  Also, check out ‘EMERIL’S TABLE’ on the Hallmark Channel.  He describes it this way, “Food brings us all a little closer together and I hope that as we’re gathering around my table each day everyone will invite us in to their kitchens and be inspired to cook along.”  I couldn’t agree more!

Disclosure: For my participation in The Secret Ingredient’s One-Pot Blogger Cooking Party, I received a copy of Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders, a jar of Emeril’s Essence seasoning, and a set of Emeril – by zak! Table Art 7-piece. Once the party concludes, upon my successful completion, I will receive a $50 grocery reimbursement and a set of Emeril’s cookbooks.

Shared on the following Blog Hops:
21st Century Housewife Hearth & Soul
Real Food Forager Fat Tuesday
SS&GF Slightly Indulgent Tuesday
EKat’s Kitchen Friday Potluck
Mom Trends Food Friday
Real Food Whole Health Fresh Bites Friday
The Healthy Home Economist Monday Mania
The Nourishing Gourmet Pennywise Platter Thursday


Stone Soup and The Well-Fed College Student

College is a season of life with precious little time or money for nutritious food. Most meals are heavy on carbs to fuel the schedule, yet light on the sustaining nutrition the brain requires. However, being a well-fed college student goes beyond checking the mail for the next care package or searching the grocery aisles for cheap convenience foods.

How do you avoid buying Ramen in bulk or the nutritional void of fast food?

Don’t try to do it alone, make Stone Soup.  I don’t know if this old folk story is read anymore, but the lesson is timeless—there is enough for everyone when we pool resources for a common goal. In this case, eating was the goal and the soup was far better than the bits of food they would have had independently.

So how do you make Stone Soup these days?

Share resources, both talent and financial. It does not take an entire village just a handful of people with the same goal of escaping the grab-n-go trap. Divide the responsibilities and a few dollars and you’re on your way. One student told me she cooked for a group of guys who agreed to buy the food if she would prepare it. Her labor and their funds meant they all ate well.

My friend and I cook together once a month to prepare meals in advance for our family. We both save money on bulk items and enjoy the ease of having a menu of items to choose from for dinner. She has the benefit of a freezer (not all students do), so she can pull something out for dinner when she is studying for a test.

Whether it is one cooking for others, a small group cooking together, or two families making multiple meals to last a month, the concept is the same—you are sharing resources (and great food) instead of trying to do it alone.

Practical items you will need:
♦  A stove or a good countertop burner
♦  1 large pot (8 qt or larger)
♦  Skillet (optional, but helpful)
♦  Large casserole dish 9″x13″ (optional, and requires an oven)
♦  Cutting board
♦  Sharp knife – even old knives get a second chance with AccuSharp
♦  Utensils – spatula, stirring spoons, tongs
♦  Mixing bowls
♦  Storage bowls with lids to divide the food amongst the group
♦  Recipes, and patience to work things out
*Many of these items can be found at thrift stores or garage sales for little cost.  Borrowing larger pots or mixing bowls can work too, my friends and I have shared a stock pot for years.

Divide the Responsibilities:
♦  Organizing, searching out the recipes, creating shopping lists
♦  Shopping
♦  Prepping/Cooking
♦  Clean-up
♦  Managing the money/contributions
Note: If you have food sensitivities or strong food preferences, it is ideal to cook with a like-minded group.

Agree on a time to put it all together, enjoy good food, and divide the leftovers.  Cooking together enables students to have nutritionally superior, great tasting food, while building community at the same time.  This is not limited to soups, that’s just an easy, inexpensive way to begin. Spaghetti or skillet suppers, salads, and casseroles work well for groups too.  Below is a recipe to get started.

White Chicken Green Chili

Source: Mary Schoenecker
Yields 7 servings
1       pound boneless chicken, cut into 1″ cubes
1       medium onion, chopped
1       ½ tsp. garlic powder
1       tablespoon oil
2 15  ½ oz. can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1       can 14 ½ oz. chicken broth
2      cans (4 oz.) green chilies
1       tsp. salt
1       tsp. cumin
1       tsp. oregano
½    tsp. pepper
¼    tsp. cayenne pepper
1       cup sour cream
½    cup heavy whipping cream

In a large pot, sauté chicken, onion and garlic powder in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Add the beans, broth, chilies and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered, for 30 minutes.  Remove from the heat; stir in sour cream and cream.

Other recipes to consider:
Chicken & Dumplings
Curry Chicken Salad
Red Beans & Rice
Smoked Turkey & Bean Soup
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Skillet Beef Fajitas
Sausage & Vegetable Pasta Bake

Savoring Today was nominated for a Top Foodie Blog Award at eCollegeFinder and asked to write a student centered post, which is what you find here. Dedicating this to my friend, Pati, who went back to school much later in life. I admire her courage and determination.

Shared on the following Blog Hops:
EKat’s Kitchen Friday Potluck
Premeditated Leftovers Gallery of Favorites

Emeril’s Rich Shrimp Stock: Getting Ready for Cajun Shrimp Stew

Homemade stock is a crucial element in delicious soups and stews. It was no surprise to find a great stock recipe in Emeril’s Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders  as the base for the Cajun Shrimp Stew, set to post on Monday.  Although it is easy to do the entire recipe in an afternoon, I thought it might be helpful for some to have the stock recipe prepared in advance.

Daughter Having a Little Fun with It

When shopping for this dish, it was not easy to find a good quantity of shrimp shells and heads. Many large grocery chains now have their fish products trimmed at a larger facility and shipped to them case-ready. I had some shells from the shrimp for the stew, but that was not enough for a great stock. To improvise, I asked Whole Foods for a 3-4 pound fish head, which they had.  Availability of scraps and carcasses can simply be an issue of timing; however, a good fishmonger will usually have something to offer in their freezer.

As Emeril indicates in the introduction to the recipe, it makes a remarkable difference to roast or brown the bones or carcasses.  Roasting the savory vegetables in a 350° oven for 45 minutes or so will caramelize the sugars and deepen the flavor of the stock even more. Allowing time for it to reduce will create an aromatic and richly fortified stock, you do not want to skip this step in the process.  With this Rich Shrimp Stock we are one step closer to the Cajun Shrimp Stew!

Emeril’s Rich Shrimp Stock

Yield:  About 12 cups
This stock is so easy to make, yet so flavorful—make a batch every time you have shells and heads from fresh shrimp and you’ll never have to worry about where to get shrimp stock again. You’ll find that toasting the shells in oil before adding the water gives added depth to this stock, which can be used in countless ways.

1 to 1 ½ pounds shrimp shells and heads
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
14 cups water
1 large onion, unpeeled, roughly chopped (the onion peel deepens the color of the stock)
½ cup roughly chopped celery
2 small carrots, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 large sprigs fresh parsley

1. Rinse the shrimp shells and heads in a large colander under cold running water and allow to drain.

2. In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the shrimp shells and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shells are pink and toasty-fragrant, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add the water and all the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat, skimming any foam that comes to the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook at a slow simmer until the stock is flavorful, 45 to 60 minutes.

3. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large heatproof bowl and allow it to cool completely. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days before using. (The stock may also be placed in airtight containers and frozen for up to several months.)

Note: You can easily double the ingredient amounts to make a larger batch of stock. To save space in the freezer, you can reduce the stock further after straining and discarding the solids. Just add water to the defrosted stock to reconstitute as needed.

Valentine’s Dinner: “Did the fish head just move?”

I still smile when I think about Valentine’s Day last year.  Can’t wait to put the menu together for this year!

Valentine’s Day 2010

Matt and I began celebrating Valentine’s Day in advance by selecting a few recipes for the sweetheart dinner we planned together (including youngest daughter, Kristen). Various options were considered—Spanish Tapas, Scallops in Garlic Butter, Bruschetta (Julie & Julia style), Seafood Paella, and Bouillabaisse—wanting to prepare something we’d never tried before, adding a little risk to our adventure.

Since chocolate is the standard-bearer for dessert at our house there was no quibbling over our final course, so it was decided on first. I had prepared Chocolate Mink from Gourmet Magazine a few years back and it just seemed right to have at least one recipe on our carte du jour that was familiar, though it didn’t really fit our virginal, international fare. However, lo and behold, there it was on gourmet.com, a new version of our old favorite fitting into place with its south of the border twist—Mexican Turtle Chocolate Mink.

Even though scallops cradled in a host of garlic and butter seemed like a worthy appetizer for this occasion, I could still picture the scene from the movie Julie & Julia in my head when Julie’s husband bites into the bruschetta … the fried French bread, fresh tomatoes, and basil were just too much to resist. Unintentionally, the final menu took on a movie theme as Matt’s fondness for Bouillabaisse influenced his main course vote, remembering a cool scene from a spy movie, In Like Flint. I agreed and V-day was launched.

Recipes and shopping list in hand, we entered Whole Foods with enthusiasm picking over fresh ingredients and choice seafood as though we did that sort of thing all the time. It was sheer bliss for me, browsing bright, beautiful vegetables with the promise of creating and sharing a feast with the man I love. Fennel, check; leeks, check; red pepper, check; and so on.

Before long we moved on to the fish counter to peruse the fresh catch as well as a variety of crustaceans—lobster, mussels, crab legs, littleneck clams, and shrimp—each one playing a key role in our main course. An important aspect of Bouillabaisse is the stock, which forms the base of this renowned fisherman’s stew, thus landing fish bones a spot on the list. The fishmonger did not have any bones, but instead could offer us a salmon head.

Now, aspiring to be a great cook, I figure you have to overcome the squeamish, sickly feeling one gets when pondering things like octopus, whole fish, or for some, the mixing of meatloaf with your bare hands. For me, fish heads are right up there in the squeamish category, just short of creepy, the way their eyes follow you around a room like an old portrait in a museum. There I was, standing beside my amiable husband with a line forming behind me, facing a moment of truth—do I really have what it takes to be a great cook? Wanting to appear nonchalant about fish heads, as any great cook would, I confidently accepted their offer and placed it in our cart. Meandering through the rest of the store, occasionally checking our list and sampling cheese, we settled on some crusty French bread for our Tomato and Basil Bruschetta.

Once we were home and relaxed a bit, our attention turned to the kitchen and the mission of the day—to enjoy one another while preparing and experiencing new recipes. We reviewed the instructions to establish the flow of activity and jumped right in. Apron secured, I could not keep my eyes from darting over to the salmon head, determined to muster the courage to face my fate of cooking something that was watching me cook it. (C’mon, it’s hard not to look at someone staring at you!) I remembered being in New Orleans when I was 20, eating barbecued shrimp for the first time, having no idea it would come to the table with the heads and antennae intact. It was delicious, and I did manage to cover their beady little eyes with my napkin so I could finish the meal, but it was the last time I had anything to do with a staring contest while eating.

At this point, I remembered how Julia Child was described as fearless during her days at Le Cordon Bleu as she split lobster or boned a duck. Thankfully, I did not face the scrutiny of a French cooking class. My adoring husband, busy slicing fennel, did offer to contend with the salmon for me (chivalry is not dead), but the stock was my appointed task. So with ingredients assembled and clear resolve, it was time for “everybody in the pool” (a funny phrase from my friend Donna when trying to get food to cooperate) and our fisherman’s stew was underway.

About this time, not realizing I let out a noise resembling a motion-sick cat as I stirred the stockpot, Matt said, “did the fish head just move?”
No.” I said unflinchingly, resisting his attempt to get me to admit I was way outside my comfort zone. Instead of queasiness, laughter bubbled up and I knew the worst was behind me (except when the fish head fell apart in the stock and the eyes just floated by themselves—which oddly makes me laugh now!).

Matt prepared the rouille for the soup while I finished the appetizer (we’d been cooking for over 2 hours, surely it was time to eat something). The bruschetta was heavenly with its delicately crunchy garlic crust and generous topping of sweet, juicy grape tomatoes and basil.

Matt had chosen the perfect wine to accompany our meal, which also refreshed us during our brief appetizing respite. Kristen was lured into the kitchen by the aromatic invitation of the Bouillabaisse and the anticipation of mussels, crab, along with shrimp in her bowl. We were all anxious to taste and savor.

The flavors melded into a rich seafood stew that was as pleasing to the eye as it was to our palate. The white fish blended subtly into the background while the shellfish took center stage with its coral colors, shells, and textures. The garlic bread was great for dipping, soaking up the broth to deliver that crispy, soup-soaked bite we all love. Of course, we analyzed the qualities we liked and the minor things we would change, but far beyond the fare that rested in front of us, we had the joy of discovering something new together.

Mexican Turtle Chocolate Mink before the Caramel Pecan Sauce

Dessert was last, but certainly not least. The Mexican Turtle Chocolate Mink (involving neither turtles nor minks) greeted our taste buds with velvety, chocolate delight. The hint of cinnamon that lingered behind the intense chocolate encounter was reminiscent of Mexico, the toasted pecans and caramel sauce was the perfect accent. Six simple ingredients delivered a most rewarding finish to the day.

Up to this point, Matt had been supporting cast in the kitchen offering an extra pair of hands to help whenever needed. However, this occasion brought a focus on relationship over expediency or efficiency, a genuine collaboration from choosing the menu to setting the table. As we chopped, laughed, measured, kissed, poured, sang, discussed, stirred, and danced our way through the late afternoon, it had become the most delightful Valentine’s Day we have ever shared.

The food was delicious and the companionship, sublime. I was reminded once again that good food is more about the people we share it with, than the fuss over all the fine ingredients. Though I am no longer intimidated by the seemingly creepier parts of a fish, or under the auspices that one can only be a great cook by engaging such things, I am quite content to leave that to others.