December 30, 2010

Cultivator Soup

Cultivator Soup, both vegan and gluten-free
Cultivator Soup is both vegan and gluten-free

Back in the 80's I was Pastry Chef at The Winchester Inn in Ashland, Oregon. Among my duties was soupmaking, and over the years I worked there I must have made more than a thousand pots of soup, including several hundred batches of a deceptively simple soup called Cultivator. I may not have remembered the precise recipe, but I've certainly remembered the main ingredients and the spirit of the soup.

December 27, 2010

Forest Mushroom Soup

Recently I attended a Holiday Meal event at an upscale restaurant that started with a Forest Mushroom Soup. Or so they claimed. It was a tan-colored insipid broth with a few bits vaguely recognizable as "mushroom" floating in it. I put away my business cards so no one would ask me for an opinion. Here's what I expected when I read "Forest Mushroom Soup" on the menu.

December 25, 2010

Christmas Hot Chocolate

Christmas morning, fresh snow on the ground. Is there a better time for hot chocolate? I think not. Here's what I made this Christmas morning while admiring the fresh snow.

Hot Chocolate
½ cup half-and-half
1½ cups whole milk, ½ cup reserved
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon Mexican vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 oz shaved chocolate
1 teaspoon Chambord

Mix the half-and-half with 1 cup whole milk in a small saucepan and set over gentle heat. Meanwhile, whisk the cocoa powder into the reserved ½ cup cold whole milk, then add the vanilla and cinnamon. When the heated milk is drinking hot, whisk in the reserved mixture. Add the shaved chocolate and "correct" with the Chambord. If there are many small ones around, add more Chambord to the adult portions.

Fröhliche Weihnachten. Buon Natale. Joyeux Noël. 圣诞快乐. Feliz Navidad. สุขสันต์วันคริสตร์มาส. メリークリスマス. Merry Christmas!

December 23, 2010

Pain au Levain

Pain au Levain
Pain au Levain, the classic French bread

Bread and Wine is a wonderful novel by Ignazio Silone, and sometimes I think it would make a good name for my blog. Or maybe it should be Bread and Soup and Wine because I consume a fair amount of each. Anyway, here's another excellent bread from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day, ever so slightly modified.

December 20, 2010

Pumpkin, Bacon, Leek, and White Bean Soup

Some things are just too easy.

I've been re-reading Fergus Henderson's books (The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating and Beyond Nose to Tail: More Omnivorous Recipes for the Adventurous Cook). If you haven't read his work, it's humorous and full of wonderful kitchen wisdom. I particularly enjoy his style of recipe writing.

Anyway, he published a recipe for Pumpkin and Bacon soup, and as you may recall from last time I have a large quantity of savory pumpkin purée needing to be used. Unfortunately, his recipe calls for raw pumpkin, but pumpkin and bacon seemed too good an idea to pass up, so I made up my own soup.

December 16, 2010

Pumpkin-Parmesan Sauce

The first time I saw Pumpkin Parmesan Sauce I thought it sounded awful. I couldn't imagine the combination. So I tasted it. Wow, instant addiction! Just a few days ago, the neighbors gave us an extra pumpkin.

December 14, 2010


Panettone is a well-known Christmas treat from Milan, although it is available and eaten year-round. The commercial panettone I've had comes in a large tin, and although tasty, is a bit dry. The homemade version from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day is anything but dry, and very tasty indeed. It's also a lot of work.

December 10, 2010

Eleven Grain Sandwich Bread

Bread, for me, truly is the staff of life. Meals feel incomplete without some sort of bread, and a good bread makes a complete meal by itself. I love baguettes and focacce, boules and rolls. All those are wonderful right up to the moment I crave a good PB&J, and that's when I need sandwich bread.

December 8, 2010

Growing Mushrooms

Earlier this week I attended a mushroom-growing workshop in Knoxville, led by Bob Hess, owner of Everything Mushrooms. I've thought about growing mushrooms, but it always seemed to require significant investment in science lab equipment. Mushroom spawn plugs looked to be easier, but because of what I'd read I thought it might be difficult as well. When the opportunity to attend a workshop came up I jumped at it.

It turns out to be really quite easy. You need two tools: a drill and a hammer. You'll need plug spawn, of course, and a log. The log seems to be the most important component other than the plug spawn. It must be hardwood, preferably white oak, and freshly cut (which means aged a month or two until the sap stops running); no old logs off the ground. The log should be 4-6 inches in diameter, and 2 feet long or so (or as long as you want bearing in mind you have to be able to move the thing).

December 6, 2010


Holidays are a time for entertaining and cocktail parties, but not everyone wants alcoholic beverages. Cordials are a great solution. If you've never made a cordial, you'll look at the recipe and say, "Hey, that's just flavored simple syrup!" You're right, of course. Now add seltzer (carbonated water) and you can call it a cordial. I know, it's just a soft drink, but isn't cordial a much nicer name for it? If you have youngsters around for the holidays, they'll feel much more adult having cordials than just having soda pop.

December 3, 2010

Cookies Easy As 1-2-3

The holiday season is in full swing, there's snow on the ground here in East Tennessee, the wind is howling like a banshee, and it's below freezing. It must be time for cookies!