low carb

home away from home soup

home away from home soup via millys-kitchen.com

Today has been one of those rare perfect days. 

I’m writing this from a picnic table in front of an old stone farmhouse in the Portuguese countryside. There’s a flawless blue sky overhead and a lazy breeze rocking the eucalyptus trees nearby. This morning, Beau and I walked to the beach where we watched the comings and goings of a flock of seagulls and listened to the waves roar in.

Later, we hopped in our rented station wagon and bobbed over country roads flanked by groves of cork oak trees. Our destination: a little restaurant housed in an old schoolhouse where we ordered a pile of fried fish and a bottle of crisp vinho verde to wash them down. Back at our guesthouse, I spent the afternoon lazing by the pool reading magazines and floating in and out of a delicious sleep. 

home away from home soup via millys-kitchen.com

It’s days like today that keep me yearning to travel. To discover more serene beaches and locals-only restaurants nestled along country roads. 

But of course, travel is not always as idyllic as this sun-kissed day in the Portuguese countryside. I’ve been on the road for over three weeks now and it’s had its inevitable ups and downs. In Paris, I led a culinary tour with my friend Rachael that was fantastic. And exhilarating. And a lot of work. Navigating a group of ten through Paris traffic is not exactly a walk in the park. And pinning down tour logistics with the maddeningly noncommittal French has it’s own set of unique challenges. 

home away from home soup via millys-kitchen.com

As soon as the tour ended, Beau and I headed to Porto and Lisbon to explore, see friends and do research for my next Portugal tour. Until today, this trip has been a whirlwind of seeing and doing and eating and trekking through different cities. Somewhere along the way, I started to feel pretty frazzled. There’s something about being away from the rituals of home, sleeping in an unfamiliar bed, eating strange foods, navigating foreign languages, that leaves me a little unmoored. A few days after we arrived in Portugal, I started waking up in the middle of the night feeling disoriented and anxious and longing to book the next flight home.

Luckily, I know what to do when I feel the travel blues coming on. I make this soup.

home away from home soup via millys-kitchen.com

It is decidedly un-fancy. A few humble vegetables cooked together in a bit of water to make a savory broth with some chicken and/or sausage thrown in for good measure. It’s restorative powers lie in this simplicity. After days (or weeks) of rich fare and exotic ingredients, it’s exactly what I want to eat.

I first made this soup a couple years ago while staying at an Airbnb rental in Paris. I’d just finished leading a culinary tour and couldn’t imagine eating one more eclair or croissant or charcuterie plate. I stopped in at the corner market beneath my apartment and threw this together with what I found there. A bowl of this simple, homey soup cured my malaise. Now it’s my go-to remedy when I’m traveling and feeling out of sorts. 

home away from home soup via millys-kitchen.com

Of course, you don’t need to be in a foreign country or fed up with French food to enjoy this soup. It will right your ship on a grey fall day or chill winter night. For me, this home-away-from-home soup (as I like to think of it) is a touchstone of sorts. A small ritual that anchors me when everything around me feels foreign. A brothy comfort that restores body and soul as only a warm bowl of homemade soup can.


Chilled Spring Greens Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

Home Away From Home Soup with Cabbage, Kuri Squash, Linguiça and Chicken

  • 2 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil + additional for drizzling
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale green part only, halved lengthwise then sliced into half moons
  • Sea salt
  • ½ medium head savoy or green cabbage, cored and cut into 1-inch ribbons
  • 1 medium kuri or kabocha squash, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces (no need to peel)
  • 2-3 small turnips, tops and tails removed and cut into ½-inch thick wedges
  • 6 medium tomatoes or 1 28-oz can peeled tomatoes (drained), roughly chopped
  • 6 oz linguiça or Portuguese-style cured chorizo, sliced into ¼-inch thick rounds
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise then sliced into half moons
  • 2 cups leftover roasted chicken

*Note: Pretty much everything in this soup is optional or adaptable. If you don’t have a leek, use a small onion. If you don’t like cabbage, use kale or another green you prefer. Sub potatoes for turnips if you want. Leave out the chicken and sausage (and maybe add a small handful of green lentils) for a vegan version. The version here is the one I first made and the one I always come back to. But feel free to experiment and make this soup your own.

- This was the first time I added sausage to the soup. In the past I've always made it with chicken. But since we're in Portugal, I threw in some sliced linguiça we had in the fridge. I think the smokiness of the sausage adds delicious depth of flavor the soup. 

home away from home soup via millys-kitchen.com

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leek and a sprinkle of salt and cook for a few minutes until the leek is starting to get soft. Add the cabbage, squash, turnips, tomatoes and sausage along with 4 cups of water. Salt to taste. Bring to the boil over high heat then reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are almost tender. Add the red pepper and zucchini and cook for another 10 minutes or so. 

Add another cup or two of water if you like your soup on the brothy side like I do. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Continue to cook the soup until the vegetables are as tender as you like them. Sometimes I like them tender-crisp (this yields a prettier soup) and sometimes I like them super-soft (which is not as bright in color, but more comforting somehow).

Serve soup hot with a nice drizzle of olive oil over the top.

Makes 4-6 servings.

chilled spring greens soup with crispy prosciutto

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

Today, I have for you a chilled spring greens soup with crispy prosciutto. I love this soup because it’s easy and delicious and a great reminder of how being wrong can sometimes save the day.

If you’re anything like me, you’re not necessarily fond of being wrong. Especially in front of other people. But, in it’s own serendipitous way, this soup proved me wonderfully wrong on two occasions. 

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

It’s based on a chilled green soup I had at Frenchie in Paris a few weeks back. If you’re not familiar with Frenchie, you might not know that obtaining a reservation here is a major logistical feat. Or that on any given evening, the sidewalk outside is awash with Beautiful People, smoking and laughing and being generally very sexy and French. I’d scoped it out several times before deciding it couldn’t possibly live up to all the hype and striking it off my list. 

To be perfectly honest, I was intimidated by the effort required to secure a table. And all that sexy Frenchness. 

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com
chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

But when the lovely Sarah Pank, chief miracle-worker at Apartments Actually, managed to snag us a reservation, I wasn’t about to say no. Accepting her gracious offer was one of the smartest things I’ve done recently because, friends, that meal was phenomenal. All seven gorgeous courses of it. Working my way through crisp, seed-crusted cauliflower and silky foie-gras with apple confit and fresh berries with herbed ice cream, I savored every second of having my assumptions overturned.

A highlight of the meal was one of the the amuses-bouches: a tiny earthenware cup of chilled green soup, garnished with edible flowers, crunchy cured ham and creamy feta. It tasted like spring. When Beth suggested we try to recreate the soup as part of a lunch for our retreat guests, I was skeptical. It’s too cold out for a chilled soup. There’s no way we can come up with something as magical as the Frenchie version! Do people even like cold soup anyway?!? 

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com
chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

Beth gently insisted and I decided it wasn’t worth arguing over. The green soup I ended up making was fresh and bright. A riff on the classic marriage of peas and ham, in a springier incarnation. We garnished it with a few drops of pistachio oil and crumbles of salty jambon de Bayonne from the market. It was my favorite part of the lunch. 

So in addition to being fresh and light and just the sort of thing I want to eat on a warm spring day, this soup serves as a reminder that I don’t know nearly as much as I think I know. And that that’s a wonderful thing.

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

P.S. The Paris culinary retreat sold out in record time. (Thank you all for your wonderful support!) A lot of you wrote me asking about upcoming trips, so I wanted to let you know I've got details on the Portugal retreat headed your way next week. If you're not already on my mailing list, sign up here to get priority notice for all upcoming tours and events. XO!


Chilled Spring Greens Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

Chilled Spring Greens Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ a medium fennel bulb, diced
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, divided
  • 3 medium zucchini
  • 1 large bunch spinach (about 1 lb), rinsed and tough stems removed
  • ½ cup loosely packed flat leaf parsley
  • 2 cups English peas (from about 2 lbs. unshelled peas)
  • 1 small head green garlic (or 2 cloves regular garlic), thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 6 very thin slices prosciutto (serrano ham, jambon de Bayonne and pancetta are great also)
  • Pistachio oil, to garnish (or good quality extra-virgin olive oil)
  • Edible flowers, to garnish (I used borage, chervil and thyme flowers from my garden)

*Notes: Feel free to substitute herbs for the edible flowers. You’ll want to use more delicately flavored herbs so they don’t overwhelm the soup. Fennel fronds, tarragon, thyme leaves, small mint or basil leaves, or a few snipped chives would work well.

- If you don’t plan to eat all the soup at once, add the lemon juice and vinegar only to what you plan to eat at one sitting. They will cause the soup to lose its color if added too far in advance. (It tastes fine, but looks a little drab.)

- For a vegetarian or vegan version, substitute a creamy feta or some finely-chopped pistachios for the prosciutto.

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stock pot over low heat. Add the fennel and half the salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender, about 20 minutes. You don’t want the fennel to brown. Add the zucchini and cook for 5 minutes. Add the spinach, parsley, peas, garlic, the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and 3 cups of water. Raise the heat to medium and cook, covered, until the spinach has just wilted and the peas are tender, about 5 minutes longer. Take care not to overcook the vegetable or the soup will lose its bright color.

Remove the soup from the heat and puree in a blender in batches until very smooth. Take care not to fill your blender more than ⅔ full so the steam from the soup doesn’t blow the top off and burn you. If you don’t have a blender powerful enough to puree the soup very fine, strain it through a fine mesh sieve. Transfer the pureed soup to a large bowl, thin with cold water to your desired consistency and place in the fridge to cool completely.

Remove the soup from the fridge 30 minutes to one hour before serving so it can warm up a bit. (When it’s ice cold, it looses some of it's depth.) Add the lemon juice and vinegar just before serving. Taste and add more salt and/or acid as necessary.

While the soup is warming up, crisp the prosciutto. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the ham and cook, turning once or twice until crisp, about 5 mins. Transfer to a  paper towel lined plate to cool slightly.

To serve, ladle the soup into serving bowls and garnish with a swirl of the pistachio (or olive) oil. Top with edible flowers and serve with the crispy prosciutto.

Makes 6 first-course servings.

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

simple suppers: kefta shakshuka

kefta shakshuka on millys-kitchen.com

Hello!

It’s 75° and sunny in Seattle today. I’m writing this from the dappled shade of my backyard. The forecast is calling for for more balmy weather and I’ve got summer on the brain.

We’re not quite officially there yet, I know. And in Seattle, things could take a turn towards the drizzly at any moment. So it’s never a great idea to get your hopes up regarding picnics and trips to the beach. But I’m throwing caution to the wind and spending the afternoon dreaming of all the summer fun I intend to have this year!

kefta shakshuka on millys-kitchen.com
kefta shakshuka on millys-kitchen.com

In order to ensure that my workaholic side doesn’t grab the reigns and derail the whole enterprise, I’ve decided to make public all the magical summer moments I’d like to make happen this year. There’s something powerful about declaring your intentions to the world; plans and projects I share with others always seem to come to fruition just a bit more easily. A little accountability in the fun department never hurt, either!

 So here it is, my Summer Fun 2016 Wishlist:

  • Throw a backyard barbecue to get to know all my new neighbors better.
  • Always have a chilled bottle or rosé on hand for an impromptu cocktail hour.
  • Go camping in the San Juans.
  • Head back to Wichita to visit my bestie, her new man and her sweet babes.
  • Eat watermelon.
  • Go garage saling.
  • Host the fried chicken supper I’ve been promising Beau since our first date. (Oops!)
  • Take a road trip to Vancouver, Canada (which appears to be a pretty happening town).
  • Make popsicles.
  • Plan a picnic.
  • Stand in the garden eating sun-warmed tomatoes off the vine.
  • Summon the courage to swim in frigid Lake Washington.
  • Grilling, grilling and more grilling! (Especially, ribeyes with hot sauce butter. The best.)
  • Throw a pop-up dinner with my awesome friend, Kyle Wisner.
  • Paint my nails a bright, summertime-only color.
  • Become a regular at my new farmers market.
  • Finally master the art of flaky, mile-high southern style biscuits. (I’m looking at you, Brian.)
  • Pick wild blackberries.
  • Remember to take a vacation from my phone from time to time.
  • Bake a pie.
  • Read a novel.
  • Cut roses from the garden.
  • Spend time laughing with friends.

There. That seems doable, don’t you think? I’ll be checking in with you periodically to let you know how I’m progressing. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you have planned for the summer. Drop me a line in the comments below if you feel like sharing!

To help you clear your calendar for a little more summer fun, I have a new Simple Supper for you this week: Moroccan Kefta Shakshuka.

kefta shakshuka on millys-kitchen.com

Remember that photo shoot I did with my friend, Mehdi? Well he also showed me how to make this savory, spicy and delightfully easy dish. The whole thing comes together in about 30 minutes. And this gorgeous shakshuka makes a great breakfast, lunch, or dinner. (Plus, meatballs!)

I hope you like it. And I hope this Simple Supper leaves you some extra space for summertime awesomeness!

xo,

Olaiya

 

P.S. Speaking of fun, I’m working on two new culinary retreats for this fall! In September, I’m teaming up with my friend, Rachael Coyle (who also happens to be an über-talented pastry chef and owner of Coyle’s Bakeshop), to bring you a week of cooking, tasting and soaking up all the beauty that is Paris.

I’m also finalizing the details on a culinary retreat in Lisbon and Porto this October. If you’ve been following along here, you know how crazy I am about Portugal! And I’ve added some exciting new activities this year. 

As always, I’ll open registration to my mailing list before the general public. These retreats will sell out fast, so sign up here to make sure you get early access. Details coming your way early next week!


kefta shakshuka on millys-kitchen.com

Kefta Shakshuka

  • 1 lb ground beef chuck
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro, divided
  • 4 ½ teaspoons Villa Jerada kefta rub, divided
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, plus additional to taste
  • 1 small onion, grated on the large holes of box grater or finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large ripe tomato, diced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon Villa Jerada harissa
  • Freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 eggs
  • Whole cilantro leaves, to serve
  • Crusty bread or pita, to serve (optional)

*Notes: I love, love, love Mehdi's Villa Jerada spices and olive oils. I can’t recommend them highly enough. You can find stockists at the bottom of this post.

- I always double grind the meat for my meatballs. I think it makes them extra tender and moist. I either ask the butcher to do it for me or just throw regular ground meat in my food processor for about 20 seconds to get a finer texture and more even distribution of fat. Of course, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t double-grind the meat (and Mehdi didn’t for this recipe) but think it makes a mighty fine meatball. 

- I think these kefta would be beautiful with lamb instead of beef or a mix of half-lamb, half-beef.

kefta shakshuka on millys-kitchen.com

First, make the kefta (meatballs): combine the beef, ¼ cup of the chopped cilantro, 2 ½ teaspoons of the kefta rub, 1 teaspoon salt and the onion in a medium bowl. Mix well to combine. (I think it’s easiest to mix with your hands.) Using your hands or a small scoop, shape the mixture into walnut-sized balls. Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan and chill for at least 20 minutes. 

While the kefta are chilling, heat the olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the tomato, tomato paste, remaining ¼ cup chopped cilantro, harissa, the remaining 2 teaspoons kefta rub, a generous pinch of salt and pepper and the water. Cook until the tomato has broken down and the mixture has thickened to a sauce-like consistency. Add the kefta. Cover and cook until the meatballs are almost cooked through, about 10 minutes. Use a spoon to make an egg-sized hole in the shakshuka. Crack one of the eggs into the hole. Repeat with the remaining 3 eggs. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the eggs reach desired doneness, about 10 minutes for medium-soft. Sprinkle the eggs with a little salt. Scatter the whole cilantro leaves over the shakshuka and serve hot.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe by Mehdi Boujrada

kefta shakshuka on millys-kitchen.com