I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Nancie’s Asian Chicken Salad

Nancie's Asian Chicken Salad

Years ago, when I first thought about becoming a full-time food writer, I attended the wonderful and much missed Symposium for Professional Food Writers at the Greenbrier Hotel. It was amazing and inspiring and really made me understand that food writing is real and vibrant field, and it set me on the path to doing something I truly love. One of the first people I met was the astounding Nancie McDermott. Nancie is a food writer from North Carolina who has written amazing books about Chinese and Thai cooking that make those cuisines possible for American home cooks. She is also the author of two books that should absolutely be in every Southern cooks library, Southern Cakes and Southern Pies. But more than her prolific talents in the kitchen, Nancie is a kind and generous person who has been a friend and mentor to me. Just when I start to hit some sort of wall, I always seem to get a surprise email from Nancie just asking how I’m doing, and that always pushes me past the block.

A few years ago I was waiting in a doctor’s office, flipping through one of the magazines they offered (I can’t remember which one) and I came across this recipe for Asian Chicken Salad. It looked so delicious, that I asked the receptionist if she would make a copy for me. She seemed a little surprised someone had asked and told me to just rip it out of the magazine, so I took the whole page home with me. After I had made the delicious salad a few times, I flipped the page over to see the other recipes. Then I noticed the article was written by none other than Nancie McDermott. It didn’t surprise me at all that a recipe I found so appealing was written by such an amazing friend.

Nancie’s most recent book is Simply Vegetarian Thai, and it reminded me of this favorite Nancie recipe, and I knew I needed to share it. This salad is spectacularly fresh and light. The herbs really make it sing. I love to keep a bowl of this in the fridge to snack on or make a quick meal. It is great eaten on its own, but I have also scooped it up with rice crackers or served it in a lettuce cup. I have even used it to fill a rice paper roll served with one of Nancie’s delicious dipping sauces. Make a bowl of this refreshing salad, and I’m sure you’ll love Nancie too. And I can’t wait for her next book, Southern Soups and Stews!

Nancie's Asian Chicken Salad
For the dressing
  1. 3 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
  2. 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  3. 1 tablespoon honey
  4. 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  5. 1 tablespoon sugar
  6. 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  7. 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Salad
  1. ½ cup very thinly sliced red onion
  2. 3/4 cup purchased julienned carrots
  3. 3 cups cooked shredded chicken (from 2 boneless, skinless breast halves)
  4. 2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
  5. 3/4 cup coarsely chopped loosely packed fresh mint
  6. 1/3 cup coarsely chopped loosely packed cilantro
  7. 1/4 cup coarsely chopped salted roasted peanuts
For the Dressing
  1. Place all the ingredients in a jar, screw on the lid and shake until the sugar is completely dissolved.
For the Salad
  1. Place the sliced onions in a bowl and cover with water. Leave for 30 minutes. This takes some of the sting and burn from raw onion. Drain completely.
  2. Toss carrots, chicken, cabbage and onion in a large bowl using your good clean hands. Add mint, cilantro and peanuts and toss to combine. Give the dressing a good shake to combine, then pour over and toss to coat every strand. I like to use clean hands again, but you can use a fork if you prefer. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Adapted from Nancie McDermott
Adapted from Nancie McDermott
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Red Pepper Relish

Red Pepper Relish

I love good pepper jelly, the wobbly kind with little bits of pepper suspended in the jar. The kind ladies used to bring to the Christmas party to serve over cream cheese, the jar topped with a pretty little cloth circle. And as much as I love canning, jelly, made with exact amounts of liquid and pectin, are a little bit out of my league. So when I saw this simple recipe in a community cookbook, I wanted to try it, as it seemed to have everything that would produce the flavor of a good pepper jelly. In the cookbook, the recipe was titled Red Pepper Hash, but I don’t think that term really describes what this is and when I once labeled a jar red pepper jam, I could tell the recipient was very skeptical. So I went with relish. I think I like this better than classic jelly. It has more character, with body and heft and a nice tang from the vinegar, perfectly balanced with sugar. This has become a yearly ritual for me, because it is often requested by friends. I have one friend who squeals every time I give her a jar, and she keeps it hidden for her own personal use.

Try this on a burger instead of ketchup for a really interesting twist. In fact it is good on any kind of sandwich. I often serve it with a board of Southern cheeses and locally made charcuterie, but my favorite use is still poured over cream cheese. I just like to make the cream cheese from scratch now too.

Red Pepper Relish
  1. 12 red bell peppers
  2. 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  3. 2 cups cider vinegar
  4. 2 cups granulated sugar
  1. Remove the stem, seeds and ribs from the peppers and cut the flesh into chunks. In about three batches, place the pepper in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until all the peppers are finely chopped. Scrape each batch into a colander set over a large bowl. When all the peppers are in the colander, stir in the salt and leave to drain overnight. Cover the colander with a tea towel.
  2. When ready to make the relish, place a small ceramic plate in the freezer. You’ll use this this to test the set of the jam later. Then get your jars clean. You will need 3 half-pint mason jars. I always clean a couple of extra just in case. I clean the jars and the rings in the dishwasher, and leave them in there with the door closed to stay warm. You can’t put the lids in the dishwasher, it will ruin them.
  3. While you relish is cooking, get a boiling water canner or big stockpot of water going. Here are step-by step instructions for processing in a canner. When the relish is almost ready, pour some boiling water over the lids to your jars to soften the seals and set aside.
  4. Scrape the drained pepper pulp into a large pot and stir in the vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook until thick and jammy, about 30 – 40 minutes, stirring frequently, and more at the end as the relish thickens. Watch carefully, as the cooking time can vary depending on the density and moisture in the peppers. If there are any large pieces of pepper in the pot, you can use an immersion blender to break them up.
  5. When the jam has cooked down and is thickened, pull that little plate out of the freezer and spoon a little jam onto it. Leave to set for a minute, then tilt the plate. If the jam stays put, or only runs a little bit, it’s ready to go. Also, run a finger through the jam on the plate if the two sides stay separate and don’t run back together, you’re good to go.
  6. Fill each of your warm, cleaned jars with the relish, leaving a ½ inch head space. Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel. Dry the lids with a clean paper towel and place on the jars. Screw on the bands tightly, then process the jars for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath. If you have a bit of extra relish, scoop it into a refrigerator container and keep in the fridge for up to a week.
  7. When the jars are processed, leave to cool on a towel on the counter.
  8. The processed jars will keep for a year in a cool, dark place. Don’t forget to label your jars!
  1. I like to can some of this is small 4-ounce jars, which is a perfect serving for a cheese plate.
  2. Don’t throw away the juice drained from the peppers – use it to add verve to Bloody Marys, gazpacho or tomato soup. You can even freeze it in ice cube trays to add a lift cooking anytime.
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Sunshine Succotash

Sunshine Succotash

Field peas and corn are my favorite summer foods, so I am always thinking up ways to use them in recipes. Succotash is a traditional Native American dish originating in the Northeast, but it lends itself to regional variations and is a perfect vehicle for Southern field peas and our own fresh corn. Creamy butterbeans and delicate lady peas pair wonderfully with sweet corn.

I came home from the farmers market one Saturday with some lovely little yellow tomatoes I purchased from the Boys and Girls Club Technical Training booth. They were so pretty, I couldn’t resist taking them home. Back in the kitchen, unloading all my beautiful purchases, I realized I had a little sunshine spectrum of produce that I knew would look bright and fresh together. Pale peas and butter beans and sweet bi-color peaches and cream corn. And thus this version of my basic succotash recipe was born.

If you can’t find yellow tomatoes, red cherry tomatoes work just as well. If they are larger, cut them in half before adding them to the pot. I had a big handful of gorgeous thyme from the market, but oregano or marjoram would be just as tasty.

Sunshine Succotash
Serves 8
  1. 3 cups fresh butter beans
  2. 2 cups fresh lady peas
  3. ¼ ( ½ stick) cup butter
  4. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  5. 1 bunch green onions, white and light green parts, chopped
  6. 2 cloves minced garlic
  7. 2 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  8. kernels cut from 5 ears corn
  9. 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  10. salt and black pepper to taste
  11. 1 pint yellow cherry tomatoes
  1. Place the butter beans and lady peas in a saucepan and cover with water by about an inch. Bring to a boil, skim off an foam that rises, then lower the heat and simmer until the peas are tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Drain and rinse the peas.
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet and add the olive oil. Saute the green onions until translucent and soft, about 5 mintues, then add the garlic and sauté for a further minute. Stir in about half of the thyme leaves and stir until fragrant. Add the butter beans, lady peas and corn to the pan and stir to coat with the butter and oil. Stir in the cream, the remaining thyme, a nice pinch of salt and generous grinds of pepper and cook for 20 minute, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick and and the cream has reduced. Add the tomatoes, give it a good stir and cover the skillet. Cook for a two or three minutes until the tomatoes are soft and beginning to burst. Taste for seasoning and serve.
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Italian Summer Cherry Tomato Tart

Italian Summer Cherry Tomato Tart

I’m recently back from a month in Italy, exploring the art and history and architecture, but let’s be honest, mostly exploring the food. Because that is what I love the most. The recipes, techniques and ideas I learned are working around in my head still, but I am sure they will come out here soon, but in the meantime, I have been drawn to the flavors I loved so much in Italy. My everyday cooking has seen a marked increase in the use of fresh basil, good Parmigiano-Reggiano and percorino cheeses, fine olive oil and rich vinegars. Light and fresh ingredients that when combined simply sing with flavor.

So it was only natural that when I set out to use some of the lovely little jewel-like cherry tomatoes from the farmers market, my mind wandered back to Italy. This is not something I learned in my travels, nor do I think it is particularly authentic, but the fresh, bright herbs and rich cheeses make a perfect match. Use the charming multi-colored tomatoes if you can find them for a nice presentation. I highly recommend using real Parmigiano cheese and grating it yourself, and rich whole milk ricotta. I’ve given measurements for the herbs below, but you can fudge a little with the quantities.

Italian Summer Cherry Tomato Tart
Serves 6
For the pastry
  1. 1 Tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
  2. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  3. ¼ cup grated Parmagiano cheese
  4. ½ teaspoon salt
  5. ½ teaspoon pepper
  6. ½ cup (1 stick) cold butter
  7. 4 – 5 Tablespoons ice water
For the Filling
  1. 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  2. 4 eggs
  3. ½ cup whole milk ricotta
  4. ½ cup heavy cream
  5. ¾ cup grated Parmagiano cheese
  6. 1 clove garlic, put through a press of very finely chopped
  7. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  8. 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  9. 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
  10. salt and pepper to taste
For the Pastry
  1. Place the oregano, flour, cheese, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to chop the oregano and combine. Dice the butter into small pieces and add to the flour, then pulse until it looks like breadcrumbs. With the motor running, drizzle in the ice water just until the pastry comes together in a ball and there is no dry flour left.
  2. Transfer the pastry onto a piece of plastic wrap and press it into a flat, round disc. Wrap in the plastic, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but it can be made a day ahead.
  3. When ready to prepare the tart, preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll the pastry out evenly, then fit it into the pan. Prick the pastry base with a fork many times, then line the pastry with parchment paper and fill it with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. When cool enough to handle, remove the parchment and the pie weights.
For the Filling
  1. Whisk the eggs together in a large bowl, then add the ricotta and the cream and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the cheese, garlic, herbs a few grinds of pepper and a generous pinch of salt until everything is amalgamated and evenly distributed.
  2. Spread the tomatoes over the pastry shell, distributing them evenly and pour over the filling. Use your clean fingers to move the tomatoes around if needed, so they are pretty well distributed and not bunched up. Grind a little more black pepper over the top, then bake for 40 – 45 minutes until the top is firm and lightly golden.
  3. Cool the tart for about 5 minutes before removing the ring of the pan. Slice and serve warm, room temperature or cold.
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Hoppin’ John Salad with Bourbon Sorghum Vinaigrette

Hoppin' John Salad

Hoppin’ John is a traditional southern dish of rice and black-eyed peas traditionally served on New Year’s Day to guarantee prosperity in the new year. That hearty, warming dish is in my New Year’s Day rotation, usually made with black-eyed peas I bought at the farmers market and put up in the freezer during the summer. Black-eyed peas are traditional on New Years, but they are in season in the summer. And they make a great cold salad, with a tender bite and earthy flavor. I’ve read recipes for hoppin’ john salad over the years, most using the peas only and those usually canned. But I wanted to create my own summer version, focusing on fresh peas, with truly Southern, tangy-sweet dressing and a hint of fresh from herbs and crunch from the classic vegetables of Southern cooking.

This hearty salad is a perfect side for a cook-out or a fried chicken lunch. It can be made ahead and held until ready to serve. It’s refreshing but filling enough to stand alone. It’s a pretty salad on the table (particularly in this Mississippi made McCarty Pottery Black-eyed Pea platter). When I have it on hand, I use Carolina gold rice t

Hoppin' John Salad with Bourbon Sorghum Vinaigrette
Serves 8
For the Salad
  1. 1 cup long grain white rice
  2. 1 pound fresh black eyed peas (frozen if that’s all you have)
  3. 3 green onions, finely diced
  4. 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  5. 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  6. 1 green bell pepper, finely diced
  7. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  8. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
For the Vinaigrette
  1. 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  2. 3 Tablespoons bourbon
  3. 1 Tablespoon sorghum
  4. 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  5. ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  6. ½ teaspoon salt
  7. 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  1. For the Salad
  2. Place the rice in a strainer and rinse well, until the water flowing through it is no longer cloudy. Place the rice in a saucepan with 1 ½ cups water and bring to a boil. Cook until almost all the water is absorbed and little air bubbles form in the rice, about 10 – 12 minutes, stirring a few times to prevent sticking. Remove from the heat and tightly cover the pan. Set aside for 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork to separate the grains, then return to the strainer and rinse under cool water. Shake the rice to remove excess water and spread the rice on a tea towel to dry.
  3. Place the black eyed peas in the saucepan and cover by about 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. Cook until the peas are just tender but with a little bite to them, about 15 minutes, then drain and rinse and spread on the tea towel.
  4. When the rice and the peas are cool and relatively dry, toss them together in a big bowl using a fork. Add the diced celery, green onion and pepper and toss, then toss in the chopped herbs. Make sure everything is evenly distributed and break up any clumps of rice.
  5. For the vinaigrette
  6. Place all the ingredients in the carafe of a blender and blend until smooth and emulsified. Pour over the rice and peas and stir with the fork to coat everything. Cover and chill the salad several hours or overnight.
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Sweet Potato Vichyssoise

Sweet Potato Vichyssoise

I adore chilled soups during the hot summer months and often wonder why restaurants don’t serve more of them, or people make them more often. Nothing could be more refreshing, and filling. Make a big batch of cold soup and keep it in the fridge for quick lunches, cooling snack or part of a simple salad or sandwich supper.

I often make a big pot of classic white potato and leek vichyssoise for myself and dip out of it all week. So I am not really sure why it took me so long to get around to a sweet potato version. Though normally thought of as a cold-weather food, my favorite Southern tuber is a natural match for the cold soup treatment, as we sure do know a lot about hot weather down here. This soup is very simple with the earthy sweetness of the potatoes is balanced by leeks. Herbaceous rosemary and bay and exotic clove add an extra layer of flavor and a wonderful, mysterious aroma. Don’t be tempted to leave them out.

The vibrant orange color of this creamy soup makes it a showstopper on the table. I have served it at seated dinner parties and casual gatherings. If you are so inclined, it would make an interesting soup shot passed as an hors d’oeuvres. I love to sprinkle each bowl with some chopped honey roasted peanuts for a little texture and a sweet-salty finish, plush some chives for color and to complement the leeks.

Sweet Potato Vichyssoise
Serves 8
  1. 3 medium leeks, white and light green parts, to make 4 cups chopped
  2. 2 Tablespoons butter
  3. 1 cup white wine
  4. 2 medium sweet potatoes, about 2 pounds
  5. 4 cups vegetable stock
  6. 3 cups water
  7. 2 stalks fresh rosemary
  8. 2 bay leaves
  9. 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  10. ½ cup heavy cream
  11. finely chopped honey roasted peanuts for garnish
  12. finely chopped chives
  1. Slice the white and lightest green parts of the leeks into halves lengthwise, then into thin half moons. Place the leek slices in a strainer submerged in a bowl of water and shake around a bit to loosen any dirt. Let the leeks sit for a few minutes while you melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Then remove the strainer and shake out excess water. Drop the leeks into the pot and stir. Sauté until the leeks begin to soften, then pour in the wine, cover the pot and cook for about 8 minutes, until the leeks are soft. Uncover the pot and cook for a few minutes to reduce the wine until it barely coats the leeks. Do no let the leeks brown. While the leeks are softening, chop the peeled sweet potatoes into small chunks. Add to the softened leeks with the water, broth and a good sprinkling of salt. Tie the rosemary, bay leaves and cloves up into a little cheesecloth package or place in a tea strainer ball and drop in the pot. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium - low, cover and simmer for 25 – 30 minutes until the potatoes and leeks are very soft. Remove the pot from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature. Remove the herb package.
  2. Puree the soup in batches in a blender, filling the blender about half-full each time. Pour each pureed batch into a bowl. When all the soup is pureed, whisk in the cream. Cover the bowl loosely and refrigerate for at least two hours but preferably overnight. Taste for salt and season before serving, garnished with chopped honey roasted peanuts and chives.
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Roasted Asparagus Mimosa

Roasted Asparagus Mimosa

The true culinary harbinger of Spring – asparagus. When the tender stems push their way up through the dirt and out to the market, I really feel like we can start celebrating spring. Asparagus on the plate and buttercups in a vase mean soft days and gentle nights before the heat of summer truly starts. Color comes back, and the gray days of winter are behind us.

Asparagus Mimosa is a classic preparation, but I like to mix it up a bit by roasting the asparagus to deepen the flavor and bring out the natural sweetness. I up the spring factor by tossing the spears with a simple dressing bright with lemon. The grated hardboiled eggs are where the name mimosa comes from – the yellow and white is meant to look like a shower of mimosa petals. A platter of Asparagus Mimosa is a gorgeous addition to a brunch buffet table at any Spring celebration.

Roasted Asparagus Mimosa
Serves 6
For the Asparagus
  1. 1 pound asparagus
  2. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  3. salt and pepper
For the Dressing
  1. juice of one medium lemon (about 3 Tablespoons)
  2. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  3. 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  4. 2 hard boiled eggs
  1. Heat to oven to 400°. Break any thick woody stems from the asparagus by just snapping them off. Place the asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet and then toss with the oil until each spear is coated. Spread the spears in one even layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast until tender, but still with some bite left to them, about 12 – 15 minutes.
  2. While the asparagus are cooking, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil and mustard until smooth and emulsified. Remove the baked asparagus to a platter and toss with the dressing.
  3. Cut the eggs in half and pop out the yolks. Press the whites, one half at a time, through a wire mesh strainer, then do the same for the yolks. Use a spatula or the back of a spoon to push them through. I like to do this onto a plate into a pile of whites and pile of yolks, then carefully arrange them over the asparagus.
  4. The asparagus can be roasted and dressed a few hours ahead. Add the eggs just before serving.
  1. In the picture above, I added some color with a few cherry tomatoes and some chive blossoms I purchased at the farmers market.
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Root Vegetables with Walnut Sage Crumble

Root Vegetables with Walnut and Sage Crumble

Everyone is always eagerly anticipating the arrival of spring and the excitement of the fresh vegetables that begin to grow. And I love that too. Then the overwhelming bounty of summer, when there is so much fresh produce, there is hardly time to sample it all. But I love winter vegetables too. Rich, hearty root vegetables in a beautiful palate of colors. These sturdy vegetables go well with so many flavors – herbs and spices of all sorts, and work wonderfully well – roasted, mashed, pureed, in soups, stew and gratins. I think some of these knobbly beauties are the unsung heroes of the vegetable world, but I am here to sing the praises.

I love this dish for its homey charm and the creative twist – turning the idea of a summer fruit crumble into a hearty winter vegetable dish. This can be served as a side to a roasted joint of meat or as an impressive vegetarian main course. The combination of vegetables below marries into a perfect array of colors and contrasting flavors, but you can sub in other roots in the same quantities.

Root Vegetables with Walnut Sage Crumble
Serves 6
For the Vegetables
  1. 1 celeriac (celery root), about 14 ounces
  2. 3 carrots, about 6 ounces
  3. 1 large parsnip, about 7 ounces
  4. 1 sweet potato, about 12 ounces
  5. 2 leeks
  6. 1 2/3 cup vegetable stock
  7. 1 (8 ounce) tub crème fraiche
  8. 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  9. 1 Tablespoon grainy mustard
  10. 4 – 5 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  11. kosher salt
For the Crumble
  1. ¾ cup walnuts
  2. 6 sage leaves
  3. 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 6 Tablespoons butter
  5. ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  1. Wash, peel and chop the celeriac, carrots, parsnips and sweet potato. Cut all the vegetables into roughly the same size pieces, about ½ inch. Chop the leeks into half moons and rinse thoroughly.
  2. Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the root vegetables and stir, then add the leeks and cover the pot. Cook for 10 minutes.
  3. While the vegetables are cooking, stir together the crème fraiche, flour, mustard and chopped sage until thoroughly combined. When the vegetables have cooked, stir through the crème fraiche until everything is fully coated. Season to taste. Spoon the vegetables into a 2- quart baking dish and set aside to cool.
For the Crumble
  1. Pulse the walnuts and sage leaves together until you have a fine meal. Add the flour and the butter, cut into small chunks, and process until you have a nice crumbly topping. Add the parmesan and pulse briefly to mix.
  2. Spread the crumble topping over the vegetables. At this point, you can cover the dish and refrigerate several hours or overnight. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°. Cook the crumble until heated through and golden brown on top. Serve immediately.
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Indian Spiced Butternut Soup in the Slow Cooker

Indian Spiced Butternut Soup in the Slow Cooker

It’s a cold, wintry day. I’m on the sofa with a good book and a soft blanket while my house fills with the smell of warm spices. I know that I’ll have a delicious bowl of rich, flavorful soup for dinner. This is my favorite winter scenario and this soup is a favorite way to make it a reality. The slow cooker does most of the work, simmering the squash to perfection while the spices infuse the soup. But this is a great soup to come home to as well. Put it together in the morning and your house will be warm and inviting with dinner waiting when you come home.

A little chopping is all it takes to put this delicious soup together, and I’ll tell you that I happily buy pre-chopped squash at a busy supermarket where it doesn’t sit around too long. An apple adds a bit of sweetness, while ginger adds a little zing. A good dose of Indian inflected curry powder and garam masala add so much flavor and spice without to much work, and coconut milk adds richness. I love this soup served with a dollop of rich yogurt swirled in and a little chopped cilantro for freshness. Some soft, warm naan on the side is a nice treat.

Indian Spiced Butternut Soup in the Slow Cooker
Serves 6
  1. 32 ounces cubed butternut squash (about 6 cups, from about 2 medium squash)
  2. 1 green apple, cut into chunks
  3. 1 onion, cut into eights
  4. 3 cloves of garlic
  5. thumbnail-length piece of ginger, chopped
  6. 1 Tablespoon curry powder
  7. 1 teaspoon garam masala
  8. 1 teaspoon cumin
  9. 1 teaspoon salt
  10. 4 cups (32-ouncs box) vegetable broth
  11. 1 (13.6-ounce) can coconut milk
  12. yogurt and chopped cilantro to top
  1. Combine the squash, apple, onion, garlic and ginger in the crock of an 8 quart slow cooker. Sprinkle over the spices and stir to coat. Pour in the broth and the coconut milk, stir to combine and cover the pot. Cook on high for five hours or low for eight, until the vegetables are completely tender. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until completely smooth.
  2. Serve immediately with a dollop of plain yogurt and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro on top.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Cream of Celery Soup

Cream of Celery Soup

Celery, for many years, was a mystery to me. I know it adds the important base flavors to a million dishes, so I sauté it up with the green bell pepper, onion and celery trinity of Cajun cooking, and with carrots and onions in the soffrito of Italian and Spanish food and the mirepoix of the French. But I never really liked it on its own. Probably because the only experience I had with it on its own was the raw celery stick languishing on the crudité tray. Diet fads and magazines were always telling me to ditch the chips and go for celery sticks instead, and that never seemed like an equal trade off. But love the smell of celery; its fresh and bracing and clean. So I always thought I ought to like it more.

One unexpectedly cold spring day in London, the soup of the day in the café I happened into was cream of celery. I was dubious, but really needed some warm soup, so I ordered it. Again, perception here was the problem. I had only ever heard of cream of celery soup as the glob in a can used for casseroles. It hadn’t realized it was an actual soup. The pale green, creamy soup arrived and was a revelation. Warm and creamy with the taste that captured the smell of celery that I love so much. I jotted down the ingredients (fresh celery, celeriac and cream) written on the chalkboard at that London café and worked on my own home version.

I find this a particularly comforting soup. Just a big hunk of crusty wholemeal bread makes a treat. But for a jazzier meal, try serving this with an apple and blue cheese grilled sandwich.

Cream of Celery Soup
Serves 6
  1. 4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  2. 1 medium onion, diced
  3. kosher salt to taste
  4. 1 bunch celery (with leaves), about 1 pound
  5. 1 celery root (celeriac), about 12 ounces
  6. 4 cups chicken broth
  7. ½ cup parsley leaves
  8. ½ teaspoon celery salt
  9. ½ cup heavy cream
  1. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat and add the diced onion. Cook until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cut the bottom from the bunch of celery and discard, then cut the whole bunch into small pieces. Rinse in a colander and add to the pot. Peel the celery root and cut into small pieces and add to the pot. Sprinkle over about 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir well to coat in the butter, then cook for about 10 minutes until the celery root is becoming tender. Add the chicken broth and 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer for about 20 minutes until the celery root is very tender. Leave the soup to cool.
  2. Transfer the cooled soup to the carafe of a blender (working in batches if necessary), add parsley leaves and celery salt and puree until smooth. Return the soup to the pot. (You can cover and refrigerate the soup at this point for 2 days). When ready to serve, warm the soup over medium heat and whisk in the cream. Heat the soup through, but do not let it boil. Season with salt and/or celery salt to taste.
  1. Buy a bunch of celery with as many leaves attached as you can find. They add real punch to the soup.
  2. Celery root is knobbly and a bit of a trick to peel. I find a sturdy peeler works well, but you may need to go back over your work with a paring knife in some nooks and crannies.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/