The thing about early spring, at least here in the Hudson Valley, is that it basically looks and feels exactly like winter. For most of March and even into April, it’s cold and damp, and nothing in the garden will grow. During these dog days, a bright and zingy citrus salad feels like a life-saver. And it’s simplicity itself: juicy, sweet blood oranges (and a few mandarins for variety’s sake), tossed with crisp endive and some quick-pickled red onions. Toss over a little peppery mint and pistachios for crunch and that’s it. A drizzle of good olive oil and a sprinkle of flaky salt is all the dressing it needs.
Happy New Year, pals! Whoo! Last year did fly by, didn’t it? No, I’m kidding of course, it didn’t fly by, it was grim and interminable and everyone hated it, but at least we’re spinning away from the winter solstice. January 2021 is now upon us, and we can fall back on tried and tested aphorisms such as “it’s darkest before the dawn” and “soup is the best thing to get you through January”. (Sometimes we change that to “whisky is the best way to get through Tuesday” but a lot of you are doing dry January and we don’t want to put you off your game.)
Soup is so essential to maintaining our sanity through the short, cold winter days that we always cook up a big batch of stock from the roast turkeys and rotisserie chickens that we’ve made since November, and then freeze it in large ice cube trays or plastic containers, so we have a store of rich, versatile broth for any soup recipe we need. Often, too, we’ll make a large pot of soup from the broth, and then freeze that so it’ll last several weeks. We’ve already blogged some of our favorites: a thick Nettle (or Spinach) and Potato soup, a Creamy Mushroom Soup with Black Rice, which quickly became a favorite, a classic Tomato Soup (with cheesy toasts that will blow your mind) and a Chicken and Potato Chowder (which we made a batch of last month and thawed this week). There’s a reason why “Chicken Soup for the Soul” is a trademark, and there’s a reason why chicken soup works so well to raise the spirits. We’d like to introduce you to our new favorite variation on the theme: Gingery Chicken and Rice Noodle Soup with Crispy Garlic.
Spring is here, and one of the first areas of the garden to poke up green leaves is the stinging nettle patch. If you can avoid the sting, the nettle is one of the healthiest, most delicious perennials that’s super-easy to propagate — and is the superstar of this soup, made with leeks, potatoes, and the green, green nettle.
There’s no getting around the fact that the stinging nettle is the unloved weed, the lurking Triffid, the snarling Caliban, if you will, of the British landscape. If you thought otherwise, let me show you the plant in its natural habitat:
But despite its rather unprepossessing appearance, its urban ubiquity, and the unpleasant electric-shock feeling of walking into one, nettles are one of the most nutritious and tasty spring greens you can cook with. Last spring we made a nettle risotto with garlic and taleggio, and this year we’re combining nettles with leeks and potatoes to create a rich, green soup, sprinkled with brown butter – garlic croutons and wild violets from the garden.
We couldn’t let Christmas come and go without reposting this. It’s one of our earliest posts, but one of our very favorite recipes and something we make every single year for family parties. It just may be the toffee of your (my) dreams and while I may be indulging in a tiny bit of hyperbole, once you try it, you’ll know that I might be dramatic, but I am not a liar. In the past, I proclaimed this Salted Caramel Sauce the best thing ever and I stand by that. It’s just that there’s room on the pedestal for that sauce’s cousin from across the pond, real English toffee.
Why This Toffee Works
I’ve made a lot of toffee recipes over the years and this one is by far the tastiest and the easiest. It not only has a really nice balance of sweet and salty but a clever secret. The addition of a very small amount of corn syrup pretty much eliminates the danger of the sugar crystallizing (this has happened to us a few times, and can be a real bummer). This problem is caused when the sugar crystals start a chain reaction of crystallization (the process of sugar particles clinging together) which makes the mixture grainy. Once it happens there’s not much you can do about it, but there are a few things that will help prevent it from starting.