Tag Archives: Leeks

Favorite Soups and A Recipe for Zesty Tomato-Ginger Bisque

Apparently I jumped the gun a bit on posting about the weather last week, but it’s just as well. You really don’t want to hear about (or see) the nasty slush, mud, snow drifts, ice floes, and dangerous flying detritus (icicles, tree branches, etc.) we are dealing with here as we lug food and water to the chickens and cart their eggs back.

Fortunately, on a much more pleasant note, an artist friend of ours who has smartly vacated the Island for Santa Fe, New Mexico, is painting by day and cooking from Fast, Fresh & Green and The Fresh and Green Table by night. Don McKillop has been posting on my Facebook timeline about his favorite dishes, and the other day he mentioned the Zesty Tomato-Ginger Bisque. It seemed to provoke a lot of yums and mmmms from other Facebook friends, which just reminded me how much everybody (including me) loves soup. And that of course, tomato soup is a quintessential chill-chaser. (I’ve shared the bisque recipe below.)

Over the years I’ve developed a lot of soup recipes, and it’s kind of fun to look back and see the variety. At Finecooking.com (where several of my soup recipes reside!) you can take advantage of a cool “Create your own recipe” format and make one of my creamy soups with your favorite vegetable and favorite pantry ingredients. (Or you can go straight to Carrot-Ginger Soup, Butternut Squash Soup with Garam Masala, Yogurt & Lime, or Broccoli Soup with Bacon.)

If you’re in the mood for a hearty chowder but are cooking for a vegetarian crowd, visit Vegetariantimes.com for a story I did last year. Recipes include Roasted Butternut, Squash, Apple, and Farro Chowder; Many Mushroom Chowder with Yukon Gold Potatoes and Rosemary; Caramelized Onion and Savoy Cabbage Chowder with Thyme; and Root Veggie Chowder with Collard Ribbons. And right here on Sixburnersue.com, I’ve posted a few of my favorites from The Fresh & Green Table, including Asparagus & Leek Bisque, Spicy Noodle Hot Pot with Bok Choy, and a variation on my Farmers’ Market Minestrone. I’ve been working on more soups over the winter, too, and I have to say, they’re as satisfying to make as they are to eat.

A tasty soup builds layers of flavors by starting with lots of aromatic vegetables (onions, carrots, leeks, garlic, ginger, celery, fennel—sautéed until golden, of course) and finishing with a few bright herbs and a splash of acid (vinegar or citrus). In between, broths get savory flavor from bits of meat, earthy green veggies and roots, bright tomatoes, hearty beans and noodles, and even the occasional rogue ingredient like a Parmigiano rind or a whole star anise. Understand where the flavor comes from, and you’re more than halfway to making a brilliant soup. And to forgetting about the damp and cold outside!

Zesty Tomato-Ginger Bisque

Recipe copyright Susie Middleton from The Fresh & Green Table (Chronicle Books, 2012)

I have made tomato soups every-which-way, and honestly, they’re all pretty comforting. But this one has a special zing and warmth to it that I love. I start with leeks and fennel, add lots of ginger and a bit of garlic, and then season with a combination of orange, coriander, honey, and balsamic (just a small amount) to give those bright tomatoes a sturdy backbone. The magic of the blender produces a smooth, comforting puree, and just a little half-n-half gives the soup a silky finish. Garnish with crunchy rustic croutons or a dollop of crème frâiche.

Serves 4, Yields 8 cups 


2 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon tomato or sundried tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

2 28-ounce cans whole, peeled tomatoes (I like Muir Glen)

1 cup water

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups (5 1/2 ounces) thinly sliced leeks (about 3 medium or 4 small leeks), well-washed

1 1/2 cups (5 1/2 ounces) thinly sliced quartered and cored fennel bulb (about 1 small fennel bulb)

Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

Freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup half ‘n half


In a small bowl, combine the orange juice, honey, tomato paste, and balsamic vinegar. Set aside.

Empty the contents of both tomato cans into a mixing bowl. Gently break up the tomatoes into smaller pieces with your hands (effective but messy!) or a pair of scissors. Add 1 cup water to the tomato mixture and set aside.

In a 4- to 5-quart Dutch oven or other wide saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-low heat. Add the leeks, fennel, and 1 tsp. salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat to medium, and continue cooking, stirring frequently and scraping browned bits off bottom of pan, until the vegetables are all browned in spots and the bottom of the pan is browning a lot, another 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the ground coriander and stir well. Add the garlic and the ginger, and cook, stirring, until softened and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the orange juice/tomato paste mixture and the tomatoes and stir well to incorporate. Bring the soup to a boil and immediately reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 17 to 18 minutes. (You will notice on the inside of the pot that the soup has reduced a bit.)

Take the pan off the heat and let the soup cool for 15 to 20 minutes.

Puree the soup in three batches (fill the jar only about half way or just a little more) and cover the blender lid partially with a folded dishtowel (leave a vent opening uncovered to let steam out) to prevent hot soup from splashing on you. Combine the three batches in a mixing bowl, then return to the (rinsed) soup pot. Whisk in the half ‘n half. Taste the soup for seasoning and add more salt or pepper if needed.

Reheat the soup very gently. Serve hot garnished with the Rustic Croutons.


All photos by Susie Middleton except asparagus soup, Annabelle Breakey; tomato soup, Jessica Bard

Asparagus, Eggs & Croissants in a Recipe for Easter Brunch

Every year around Easter time (and believe it or not, this is sixburnersue.com’s third Easter), I start writing something about asparagus, even though we’re still weeks away from harvesting any local asparagus. I’ve always reassured myself that at least the vegetable is now in season in California; and after all, that’s where most of the country’s asparagus comes from—during the proper asparagus season. (Or at least it used to.) I’ve always found it ridiculous to buy asparagus out of season from South America (so I simply don’t eat asparagus in winter), but now I find it even more ridiculous that most of the asparagus in stores right now is coming from Mexico, which has underpriced California growers by so much that even California grocery stores sell Mexican asparagus.

Okay, so despite my rant (sorry about that), I still wanted to give you a tasty asparagus recipe for Easter, so I went to the store and bought asparagus to cook with this morning—and I tried not to look at the label of origin. I’m comforting myself with the delicious bread pudding that just came out of the oven, and I am also using the excuse that this dish is really all about the eggs. I know, I know—I have a thing about farm-fresh eggs, too, with their rich marigold yolks and bouncy whites.

But here’s the thing—it may be impossible to get local or even U.S. asparagus this Easter, but you’ve got more and more choice in eggs at the grocery store now. Look for the USDA Organic label (even Costco has Organic eggs!), the Certified Humane label, or eggs that say “pastured.” Pastured eggs come from hens that truly do range over grass. (Unfortunately, the term “free-range” can be applied to hens that simply have a bit more room to stretch than the typical factory egg-layer which has 1 square foot of space allotted to her. Some free-range eggs truly do come from “free-range” hens, but the term is a loose one.) And then there’s always the “grow-your-own” option! Backyard chicken keeping is one of the biggest trends going, so why not join in?! But if you’re planning to get baby chicks for Easter (our 50 babies arrive April 25), you will have to wait five or six months before they lay eggs.

In the mean time, enjoy this eggy treat with friends and family this Easter morning and keep the spirit of new beginnings in your heart.


Asparagus, Leek, Bacon & Croissant Bread Pudding
While I love challah bread in a savory bread pudding, croissants are a wonderful option, too, and they give the final dish a lovely ethereal texture. (No need for fancy croissants—just pick some up at the grocery store bakery.) There’s no trick to cooking a bread pudding (you can even call it a strata if you like), so don’t be intimidated. I like to bake mine soon after assembling (I let the bread soak up custard for 20 minutes or so), but I have held them in the fridge for a few hours before baking, so feel free to do that if you like. (Remove from fridge a half-hour or so before baking.)
: Breakfast & Brunch
Serves: 6
  • kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch medium asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced on a sharp diagonal (to yield about 2¼ cups)
  • 7 eggs
  • 1¾ cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons sliced fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • ⅛ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ pound day-old grocery store or bakery croissants, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 1½ cups (packed) coarsely grated Gruyere cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Rub a 9×13-inch (3-quart) baking dish all over with a little butter.
  2. In a large heavy nonstick skillet, cook the bacon over medium-low heat until crisp and browned, about 10 to 14 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate and break up into smaller pieces when cool. Pour off half the bacon fat from the skillet and add 1 tablespoon butter and the leeks. Season the leeks with a pinch of salt, cover, and cook, stirring, until softened and beginning to brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and let the leeks cool.
  3. In a medium nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil and the remaining half-tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, add the asparagus and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt. Cook, stirring, until the asparagus is crisp-tender (it will still be somewhat green), about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the asparagus to a plate.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, the milk, the cream, the chives, the thyme, the nutmeg, a couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce, and 1 tsp. salt. Whisk well to combine.
  5. Arrange half of the croissant pieces over the bottom of the baking dish. Sprinkle half of the asparagus, half of the leeks, half of the Gruyere, and half of the bacon over the bread. Repeat with the remaining bread, veggies, cheese, and bacon.
  6. Pour the egg mixture evenly over all. (Start at one end and pour slowly back and forth). Using your hands, gently press down on the bread and veggies to force the custard to evenly surround everything. Let sit for 20 minutes. Bake until the bread pudding has risen and is set and dry in the middle (it will be golden all over), about 40 to 44 minutes.


Try Broccoflower in a Versatile Dutch-Oven Ragoût

If it’s January, I must be cooking Broccoflower. I picked some up at the grocery the other day because, frankly, our vegetable larder of turnips, rutabagas, kale, and beets is starting to freak me out. Plus, I can never resist the lime-green color of Broccoflower, and I love its nutty flavor when browned, too. (Also, since we live in a small town and I shop at the same small grocery store every day after my post-office run, I’m beginning to worry that people might think we have a really unhealthy diet, since I rarely buy vegetables at the store any more. Checking out with Roy’s donuts, some Lucky Charms for Libby, and maybe some chocolate chips for me makes me a little self-conscious! Hence the need for the occasional head of Broccoflower.)

I’ve sautéed, roasted, stir-fried and quick-braised Broccoflower, but it’s very cold here today and I thought a ragoût would be satisfying. (When I say it’s cold today, I mean it’s calling-all-mice-inside cold. This morning a mouse was in the compost bowl in the pantry. He’d fallen in, obviously in search of yumminess, but since there was little more than coffee grinds and egg shells to feast on—anything green is going to the chickens or Cocoa Bunny right now—he’d tried to scamper back up the sides of the aluminum bowl. No luck. Roy switched on the light about 6:30 and left the little mouse to do a roller derby around the bowl until I got up. I put him back outside (tipping the bowl to let him escape), where he will most likely find his way straight back inside the house tonight. I feel a little bit like Fred Flintstone putting Dino outside the back door. Oh, well. At least Libby is not here to insist on a warm bed for Mousey.)

Anyway, since it was a ragoût day, I used the broccoflower in one of my Dutch-oven ragouts with some carrots, leeks, and baby kale (recipe follows). My “ragoûts” are not particularly saucy and they’re not heavy. They’re more like delightful “mélanges” of colorful veggies, finished with some bright flavors and a bit of butter to bring everything together. I use a Dutch oven to create some extra moisture, which, along with the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, contributes to the final flavor of the dish. Sautéing the hearty veggies in the Dutch oven means they steam and brown at the same time. I’ve used fingerling potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, baby artichokes, cauliflower and carrots successfully in these ragoûts, always adding an allium like onions, leeks, shallots or garlic, and something lighter and greener at the end for contrast, like peas or baby greens. So improvise as you please, using zest, vinegars, herbs and aromatics, and get ready for a satisfying veggie dish that can easily become a main course if served with a grain or over polenta. (The version below uses a small Dutch oven and yields just about enough for two small main dish portions or three sides. I was short on some ingredients or would have made a bigger batch, which you can easily do in a larger Dutch-oven.) And oh, by the way, this is top secret, but there are more of these ragout recipes coming in my new book, The Fresh & Green Table, later this year. But more on that topic soon!

Broccoflower, Carrot & Leek Ragout with Thyme, Orange & Tapenade

For a printable version of this recipe, click here.

If you want to double this recipe, use a larger Dutch oven (like a 6 or 7 quart). The little bit of tapenade here pairs deliciously with the Broccoflower but if you are not an olive person, feel free to mess around with the finishing sauce. (Use a dash of balsamic, soy or Worcestershire with the orange juice.) Whatever you do, be sure your cooking pot has a lid—you’ll need it to trap moisture to help cook the veggies. You can substitute cauliflower for the broccoflower, but it will take a bit longer to cook and may need a little more butter for moisture.


2 teaspoons orange juice

1/2 teaspoon olive tapenade

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 tablespoon cut into 4 pieces and kept chilled in the refrigerator)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more if needed

1/2 pound carrots (or up to 10 ounces), peeled and cut into sticks 1 1/2 to 2 inches long and about 3/8 to 1/2-inch wide and thick

kosher salt

1/2 pound 1-inch Broccoflower florets, each cut in half to have one flat side

1 small leek, thinly sliced and washed (about 2/3 cup)

1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic

handful baby kale leaves or other tender greens

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme


In a small bowl, combine the orange juice, tapenade, lemon zest, and 1 tablespoon water.

In a small (4-quart) Dutch oven or other deep, wide pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the carrots and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cover and cook, stirring frequently but gently (a silicone spoonula works well), until the carrots are lightly browned and just tender (test with a paring knife), about 12 to 14 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the carrots to a plate.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan. When the oil is hot, add the Broccoflower and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir, cover, and cook, stirring frequently and gently, until all the florets are browned and mostly tender, about 6 to 8 minutes. (Don’t worry if the broccoflower absorbs all the fat at first—it will give off moisture as it continues to cook. Return the lid quickly after each stir.) With a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoflower to the plate with the carrots.

Turn the heat to low, add 1 more tablespoon of olive oil, and add the leeks and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks are just softened and a bit browned, about 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and cook until softened, about 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat or turn the heat off under the pan and immediately return the carrots and Broccoflower to the pan. Add the kale leaves and thyme and pour in the reserved orange juice mixture. Stir immediately, add the cold butter pieces, and continue stirring gently until the butter melts (just a few seconds). Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately.

Serves 2 to 3

Farm Critters, Chicken Butts, and A Thanksgiving Butternut Squash Gratin

When I first got to the Vineyard, I was totally charmed by farm animals. Back in my suburban  I-95 world, I hadn’t run into a lot of pigs and goats, much less a baby lamb or a pair of hulking oxen. I traipsed (okay, maybe trespassed) all over the Island, taking pictures of anything with four legs or feathers. I got lucky I guess, or maybe I was entranced, because I took a lot of nice photos of critters (some of my favorites are above). Sometimes the animals even looked at the camera.

Lately it seems my luck (or probably my patience) has run out. Granted I don’t have a lot of time to wander around stalking farm animals. But when I do get close to a critter with the camera, I get mooned. Yeah, butts. Especially chicken butts. This week, I wanted to blog about our chickens…and their beautiful eggs…and about how wonderfully efficient they are at processing leftover food (and other farm compostables, like pumpkins). Yes, I know I’ve talked about this before, but after ranting about waste and expense last week, I had to share the satisfaction I got out of watching the hens efficiently turn our jack-o-lantern into fertilizer.

But the ladies would not cooperate for a good picture. When I got in the pen with them (to avoid shooting through the deer fencing), of course they all rushed away from the pumpkin and towards me. I crouched down to frame the shot and Perky jumped on my leg for a visit, while Martha and Opti started pecking at my boots. Very distracting. In the end, the best shots I got were of tail feathers. Granted those chicken butts are cute (and soft, too). But they’re still butts.

Oh, well. I finally realized that Thanksgiving is a breath away, and that it might be nicer if I paid attention to our country’s biggest cooking holiday for this blog instead of some chicken whim of mine. So I marched into the kitchen and made a new version of one of my favorite gratins from Fast, Fresh & Green—this one with a big enough yield to warrant a place on the Thanksgiving table. It turned out so well that Roy and I both snacked our way through the afternoon on it.  It features my favorite fall harvest combo—butternut squash, leeks, and corn—and, oh yes, a bit of cream and Parmigiano, plus thyme and just a hint of lemon.

Next week, I’ll offer up a green veg recipe for the Thanksgiving table—if I don’t get distracted by a baby goat or a stray dog or something.

Thanksgiving Gratin of Butternut Squash, Corn & Leeks

Since Thanksgiving is a crazy cooking day, here are some make-ahead tips for this recipe: Dice, chop, and otherwise prep all the ingredients ahead. (And buy already-peeled butternut.) Then go ahead and sauté your leeks, garlic, and corn, too. (If you’re working hours ahead, refrigerate.) You can grease the gratin dish ahead as well. Then all you’ll have to do is combine and assemble before cooking.


2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

kosher salt

2 cups thinly sliced leeks (white and light green part only, about 2 large), rinsed well but not dried

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

1 1/4 cups corn kernels (from about 3 ears)

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth

½ teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 1/4 pounds peeled, seeded butternut squash, cut into ½-inch dice (about 4 cups)

1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Rub a 2-quart shallow gratin dish with 1 teaspoon of the butter.

In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and mix well.

In a medium (10-inch) heavy nonstick skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of the butter with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the leeks (with any water still clinging to them) and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks are shrunken and lightly browned in places, 10 to 12 minutes more. (The pan will dry out.) Add the minced garlic and stir until softened and fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the corn kernels, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Cook, stirring, until the corn has lost its raw look, is glistening, and is slightly shrunken, about two minutes. Take the pan off the heat and let the mixture cool for five to ten minutes.

Combine the heavy cream and the chicken broth in a liquid measure. Add the lemon zest, a scant 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Stir to mix well.

Add the corn-leek mixture and the herbs to the diced squash and toss well to combine. Transfer the mixture to the gratin dish and arrange as evenly as possible. Sprinkle the Parmigiano on the vegetables. Stir the cream mixture one more time and pour and drizzle it over everything. Be sure to scrape out any seasonings left in the liquid measure. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over all.

Bake until the crumb topping is deep golden and the squash is tender when pierced with a fork, 42 to 45 minutes. The juices should have bubbled below the surface of the vegetables, leaving browned bits in a line around the edge of the pan.

Serves 6 to 8 as a Thanksgiving side dish

An Apple Taste-Test, A Giant Leek, and A Butternut Squash Soup for All

Libby loves apples. Roy does not. Nevertheless, I subjected them both to an apple taste-test last Saturday. They were good sports, even when I suggested they use words like “tangy” and “tart” to describe an apple’s flavor rather than “sour” and “yucky.” Actually, Libby was right there with me through the whole thing, but we noticed Roy was standing next to the compost bucket for most of the time, and I’m not entirely sure he really ate all of his apple portions. (Libby, on the other hand, called for a time-out half way through; I’d forgotten to tell her just to take a bite, not eat the whole wedge.) It didn’t matter that we all gradually lost steam, because the last apple was so crisp and juicy and flavorful and WOW! that it woke us all up and easily claimed it’s spot as number one. It was a Honey Crisp, which probably won’t surprise many of you. This one happened to be Island grown, too, and it was a doozy.

We picked up all the apples at Morning Glory Farm’s farm stand that afternoon, where we’d gone to get a big pumpkin for Libby and some vegetable treats for me. One thing I couldn’t resist tucking into my shopping bag was the biggest leek I’d ever seen—so big that I had to measure it when I got home! So much nicer than the average stubby leek you get at the grocery store…Anyway, while we were browsing, I noticed all the apples and remembered that I wanted to do a taste test again this year. There are so many different varieties of apples that you could never stop discovering delicious new ones.

The selection we brought home this year didn’t include some favorites like Fuji or Gala or Pink Lady. But we did find two new ones we liked a lot in addition to the Honey Crisp (double accent on the crisp). The first was Golden Supreme, a tastier relative of Golden Delicious. It was crisp, juicy and closer to the sweet end of the scale than the “sour” end. (Perhaps that’s why we three immediately liked it.) Supposedly a good cider apple, the Golden Supreme would be great in pies and tarts, too. Our third favorite, Paula Red, had a nice balance of acidity and sugar, but its texture and flavor make it a better destination for applesauce than pies.

In the end, we (at least Libby and I) enjoyed most of the apples. Except the Rambour Franc (also known as the Summer Rambo), which was quite mealy. I thought I remembered loving this apple, and it turns out I’m not crazy. (Well at least not on this issue.) I just read that it’s a summer apple—not a keeper—and best eaten shortly after picking. I must have had one earlier in the season last year. No matter—the texture didn’t bother the hens, who were only too happy to dispense with it.

But that still left me with pieces of apples, one giant leek, and one lovely Morning Glory Farm butternut squash to do something with this morning. So I made soup. But instead of loading the soup up with spices, I let the main ingredients star—and just gave them a hefty punch of fresh ginger. Often I make more complex squash soups, but I wasn’t in the mood today, and I liked what I wound up with—a very silky texture and pleasant flavor. If I had all the time in the world, I’d make a different soup every day. Well, actually, I did made soup every day in one job long ago. Come to think of it, maybe soup once a week is fine. After all, it’s hard to feed leftover soup to a chicken.

Butternut Squash, Apple, Leek & Ginger Soup

Choose apples with assertive flavor for this soup. I wound up using the Honey Crisp (better known as an eating apple) and the Golden Supreme and I think they worked nicely with the fresh ginger. As always, be very careful when pureeing hot soup. In fact, let the soup cool down a bit before blending (in batches) and keep a dish towel over the lid with just a small opening to vent steam. I used my garden Serrano peppers (which are very mild) in this soup. If yours are hot, pare out the veins and seeds before chopping and use less.


2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups sliced leeks (white and light green parts only, from about 3 medium leeks), well washed

kosher salt

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

1 to 2 small Serrano peppers, finely sliced (less if peppers are very hot)

4 cups medium-diced peeled butternut squash (about 1 pound 3 ounces, or the neck of a medium squash, peeled)

2 cups medium-diced peeled apples (about 12 ounces or 2 apples)

5 cups low-sodium chicken broth

a few drops balsamic vinegar

garlic chives or chives for garnish


In a 4- to 5-quart Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the leeks (with any water clinging to them) and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and stir well. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are well-softened, about 10 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks are lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes more. Add the ginger, garlic, and Serranos and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the butternut squash, the apples, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and the chicken broth and stir well. (Scrape the bottom of the pan as well to bring up any flavorful browned bits.) Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, until the squash and apples are very tender, about 20 minutes. Take the pot off the heat, uncover, and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

Puree the soup in three batches (fill the jar only about half way or just a little more) and cover the blender lid partially with a folded dishtowel (leave a vent opening uncovered to let steam out) to prevent hot soup from splashing on you. Combine the batches in a mixing bowl. Taste. Add a few drops of balsamic vinegar to pick up all the flavors and stir well. Taste again. Add salt only if necessary. Return the soup to the (rinsed) soup pot and gently reheat. Serve hot, garnished with the chives.

Serves 4

Veggies for Breakfast or Eggs for Dinner? Here’s A Frittata Plus A Dozen Other Eggy Ideas

Lest you think I’m completely crazy for devoting so much cyber-ink to birds in my last blog, I thought maybe I should come clean about a couple of things. First, I think the whole bird thing is part of my effort to be more in touch with nature (goofy as that sounds, I know). Mostly because observing nature requires slowing down. In my old life, I did everything on one speed: Fast. (Oh, dear, now I’m starting to sound like Charlie Sheen.) I barely made time to tend a pot of herbs on the windowsill or take a walk around the neighborhood—I certainly didn’t don the binoculars to wait for a bird to fly by.

Secondly (and much more practically), one of the reasons I’m truly excited about having our own hens is because we eat so many darn eggs around here (see below). Okay, I admit, there’s also a deeper meaning to the hen thing. To be completely honest, I still have a little fear that someone is going to snatch me away from the Island, return me to the office, to the suburbs, to I-95, and to a whole lot of other noise that I now happily live without. I figure raising hens gives me one more toehold on Vineyard terra firma. If the Old Life Aliens come to snatch me away, they will have to take my hens, too!

Okay. So about those eggs. Because I don’t eat a ton of meat anymore…and because I figured out a long time ago that I won’t get hungry mid-morning if I eat eggs for breakfast… and because Roy loves having breakfast for dinner… and because Libby loves anything that involves mixing a batter—we eat a lot of eggs. We are very fortunate to have a regular supply of eggs from local farms available to us (even in the grocery stores); their plump golden yolks and perky whites have spoiled me. (The yellow color comes from the  higher amounts of beta-carotene these birds ingest.) When I’m developing recipes, I’ll try to use non-local eggs to make sure the recipe will taste good regardless—but for our everyday eating, we love our local eggs. Here’s what we do with them:

1. We scramble them with fresh herbs (especially cilantro and mint), a dash of cream, a little cheese (cheddar, aged gouda, Monterey jack, goat cheese), and plenty of salt and pepper.

2. We make waffles and buttermilk pancakes, sometimes for dinner. (Favorite recipes at finecooking.com).

3. We make all kinds of different egg sandwiches; here’s a recipe for one of my favorite creations, which I nicknamed “The Local.” Yes it has a bit of (local!) meat on it.

4. We make my Dad’s famous popovers. (See King Arthur Flour site for pans.)

5. We make savory bread puddings, especially when we have the amazing challah bread from our local Orange Peel Bakery. (Popover and bread pudding recipes coming in Fresh & Green for Dinner.)

6. We make French toast with a dash of vanilla and maple in the custard, and we top it with a homemade concoction of fresh berries warmed in maple syrup and slightly mashed in the skillet. (Love to use the challah here, too.)

7. We make omelets with leftover roasted veggies or roasted tomatoes.

8. We make a rif on pasta carbonara with spring asparagus or garden peas.

9. We make thin, quiche-like tarts; my favorite is with fresh corn, basil, and tiny tomatoes.

10. Of  course, we make cookies and quickbreads and the occasional coffee cake, too. (Most often we use recipes from my favorite baker, Abby Dodge.)

11. We make veggie fritters or pancakes—sometimes with grains, too, or leftover mashed potatoes. We also make spoonbread, a favorite from my Dixie days.

12. But probably our favorite thing to do with eggs is to make a veggie frittata. Usually I make one big one, but sometimes I’ll make little ones in a mini-muffin tin. Frittatas (like the leek and spinach one below) are incredibly versatile; you can eat them for breakfast, lunch, snacks or dinner. And they always taste better after sitting a bit (even overnight); I guess the flavors have more time to penetrate the custard. The method I learned years ago at Al Forno restaurant is easy to follow, and you can make up your own veggie combos, too. (I also love potatoes, mushrooms, corn, arugula, scallions, and broccoli in frittatas.) Just be sure to cook most veggies first to concentrate flavor and to reduce excess moisture. Be generous with fresh herbs and don’t forget the salt and pepper in the custard.

Leek, Spinach, Thyme & Gruyere Frittata

This easy frittata method starts out on the stovetop and finishes baking in the oven—but there’s no tricky flipping involved. After cooling, I like to cut the frittata into small squares, rather than wedges, so that bite-size snacks are easy to grab. It’s also a great way to go for a potluck, book group meeting, or other casual gathering.


3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 medium leeks (white and light green parts), sliced about 1/4-inch thick (about 2 cups) and well washed

Kosher salt

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

3 ounces baby spinach leaves

6 large eggs at room temperature

2/3 cup half ’n half

1 tablespoon roughly chopped thyme leaves

big pinch nutmeg

freshly ground pepper

1 cup (3 oz.) coarsely grated Gruyère


Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Make sure one of your oven racks is positioned in the center of the oven.

In a 10-inch heavy nonstick (ovenproof) skillet, melt 2 Tbsp. of the butter over medium-low heat. Add the leeks, season with a big pinch of salt, and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are softened, 5 or 6 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat to medium, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks are browned in spots, another 8 to 11 minutes. (Don’t worry if they get a little overbrown in places—that’s just great flavor.) Add the minced garlic and stir well. Add the spinach and 1/4 tsp. salt and, using tongs, toss and stir the spinach with the leeks until it is all wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and let the veggies cool a minute.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, half ’n half, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, the thyme, the nutmeg, and several grinds of fresh pepper. Stir in the Gruyère.

Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter to it. When the butter has melted, pour and scrape all the custard mixture into the skillet.  Using a silicone spatula, gently stir and move the contents of the pan around so that everything is evenly distributed. (You may have to nudge clumps of leeks and spinach apart.) Let the pan sit on the heat until the custard is just beginning to set all the way around the edge of the pan, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the frittata is puffed, golden, and set, 22 to 24  minutes.

Before unmolding, let the frittata cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Shake the pan a bit, tip it, and use a spatula (silicone works great) to get under the frittata and slide it gently out onto a cutting board or serving plate.  Cut into wedges and serve warm, or wait for a bit longer and serve at room temp. Refrigerate leftovers; this is even better the next day.

Serves 4 to 6

Slipping Leeks into the Skillet: “Sweat” first, then Sauté

Like Peter Rabbit sneaking into Mr. McGregor’s vegetable patch, I tiptoed into a friend’s garden yesterday and heisted some leeks. I didn’t get caught, and it was pretty thrilling, so, I don’t know, I may turn into a petty criminal.

Seriously, I sort of had permission for this particular heist. When my friend left the Island late last fall to spend the winter in California, he implored me to help myself to any garden stragglers. I stopped occasionally for some lettuce and other greens, then forgot all about the garden until yesterday, when I drove past it on my way to pick up some fresh eggs at a nearby farm. I looked out the window and couldn’t believe what I saw—a row of green leafy leek tops sticking out of the grey, crackly earth. What a courageous vegetable, I thought, to brave the winter we’ve had—the winter of a gazillion snowflakes and a billion rain drops, the winter of anemometer-breaking winds, beach-busting surf, and canceled ferries. I couldn’t just leave the leeks there—or not all of them, anyway. They deserved to be cooked. So I dug up a few, and oh, how good it felt to harvest a vegetable. Who says nothing’s in season in March?  (I hear that parsnips are even better after a long winter.)

I took my leeks home, sliced them up, rinsed them well, and treated them to a luxurious buttery, steamy, simmer in a skillet until they were soft and most of the moisture had evaporated. Then I kept cooking them a bit until they were lightly browned. (Leeks like to be “sweated” in a little liquid before they’re sautéed. They give off a slightly sticky substance that can cause them to stick to the pan or cook unevenly if they’re not started off with enough fat or liquid.) Next, I folded in a few handfuls of fresh spinach, tossed in a teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves, and added just a tablespoon of heavy cream to give the dish some body. Off the heat, I grated in a tiny bit of Parmigiano. What I wound up with was the perfect “bed” for a juicy steak, a grilled lamb chop, or a piece of grilled fish. This is a pretty richly flavored side dish, so a little goes a long way.  You can use some at dinner time and do as I did this morning—add the rest to an omelet. Delicious. It would be a great pizza or crostini topping, too.


A Bed of Buttery Leeks & Spinach

3 medium leeks, white and lightest green parts (about 8 ounces)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

2 cups (packed) washed and stemmed fresh spinach leaves, torn into smaller pieces if large (about 2 ½ ounces)

1 teaspoon lightly chopped fresh thyme

1 tablespoon heavy cream

2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano (optional)


Trim the ends from the leeks. Slice the leeks across into thin rings (about 1/8-inch thick), discarding any woody stem in the center. Put the sliced leeks in a bowl and cover them with tepid water. Swish them around a bit and let them sit. Lift the leeks out of the bowl and transfer to a colander. Drain and rinse the sand from the bowl, return the leeks to the bowl, and cover again with tepid water. Lift, drain and repeat one more time, leaving the leeks in the water the last time.

Heat the 2 tablespoons butter in a medium non-stick skillet over medium-low heat.  Lift the leeks out of the water and add them to the pan with whatever water is clinging to them. Season with ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are limp and all of the liquid has evaporated, 10 to 12 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks are very lightly golden brown, another 3 to 5 minutes. Add the spinach leaves and a pinch of salt and fold or stir them in with the leeks until they are wilted, about 1 minute. Add the fresh thyme and the cream and remove the pan from the heat. Gently stir until the cream is mostly absorbed into the dish and the thyme is well-distributed. Stir in the Parmigiano, if using. Taste for salt and serve warm.

Serves 2 as a side dish, 2 to 3 as a “bed” for fish, chicken, or beef