spring

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

Breton Butter Cake with Black Pepper Strawberry Compote

butter cake with black pepper strawberry compote on millys-kitchen.com

Lately, I’ve been in an in-between state of mind. 

The weather keeps see-sawing between gorgeous sunny days and brooding spring skies. We’re settled into our new house, but I’m taking a break from renovating and decorating to preserve my sanity. I’ve got culinary tours and classes and dinners planned for the summer. But I’m trying to simply place one foot in front of the other and move towards my goals rather than burning myself out with my usual unbridled desire to do EVERYTHING NOW.

butter cake with black pepper strawberry compote on millys-kitchen.com

Which has left me feeling sort of… bored. I know that a little boredom does not spell the end of the world. But I haven’t been bored since I was about four years old. I’m an only child and a confirmed introvert, so I learned to entertain myself early on. Boredom is a strange, uncomfortable feeling. Also, I’ve always felt there are so many interesting things to do in the world. Too many, even. How am I supposed to become a master gardener, learn film photography, improve my tennis game, write a cookbook and teach myself to speak Portuguese with only 24 hours in a day? 

You see my point, obviously.

butter cake with black pepper strawberry compote on millys-kitchen.com
butter cake with black pepper strawberry compote on millys-kitchen.com

As I’ve shared here recently, I’m trying to pace myself a little better. Leave room throughout each day to chart my course rather than just react to an endless to-do list. However, my productivity-addicted brain doesn’t know what to do with the in-between spaces. My hope is that the boredom and discomfort will morph into a sense of calm and clarity. (That’s totally a thing, right?) If any of you have experienced something similar while trying to live a more mindful life, I’d love to hear your stories.

butter cake with black pepper strawberry compote on millys-kitchen.com

In the meantime, I’ve been turning to the kitchen for the reliable sense of calm I find there. After my recent cake disaster, I decided I needed a win in the baking department. I dug up the recipe for this classic French butter cake, which I’ve been making for years. The only thing better than eating this crumbly, buttery cake accompanied by a strong cup of coffee, is topping it with black pepper strawberry compote. 

butter cake with black pepper strawberry compote on millys-kitchen.com

My friend Stephanie developed the compote recipe and it’s a winner. Roasting the berries intensifies their flavor and transforms their juices into a bright syrup. The kick of black pepper heightens the tartness of the berries and balances the buttery cake.

butter cake with black pepper strawberry compote on millys-kitchen.com

There’s a quote from Henry David Thoreau I keep at the top of my to-do list: “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” I try to keep this in mind as I move through each day. I try to remember that doing is not the same thing as living. I wish I could say I’m half as good at living as I am at doing. I get a little better at it every day though, which is what really matters, it seems. And my in-between days are made a whole lot sweeter with time spent in the kitchen and a slice of this cake at hand.

butter cake with black pepper strawberry compote on millys-kitchen.com

Breton Butter Cake with Black Pepper Strawberry Compote

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 1 recipe Black Pepper Strawberry Compote (see below)
butter cake with black pepper strawberry compote on millys-kitchen.com

Preheat your oven to 350° F. In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. (A hand mixer would work to, it will just take longer.) Add the vanilla and then the yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour and salt and beat just until combined. Take care not to overwork your batter.

Transfer the batter to an 8- or 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Use a small offset spatula or knife to spread the batter and smooth top. You want the top as flat and smooth as possible. If the batter is too warm to get a smooth top, chill it for 10 minutes or so and then try smoothing it again. Place the pan in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the refrigerator. Beat the egg with a tablespoon of water and brush it over the top of the cake. Use a fork to mark a criss-cross pattern across the top.. Brush the criss-crosses with the egg wash. Bake until the cake is deep golden brown and the edges pull away from the sides of pan, about 40 minutes.

Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool slightly. Remove the cake from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature with Black Pepper Strawberry Compote.

Makes 8-10 servings.

Recipe via Martha Stewart


butter cake with black pepper strawberry compote on millys-kitchen.com

Black Pepper Strawberry Compote

  • 2 pints ripe strawberries (about 1 lb), rinsed and patted dry

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cut the tops off the strawberries and slice them into halves or quarters (depending on their size). In a medium bowl, mix the berries with the sugar and pepper. Set aside to macerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. 

After the berries have sat for 30 minutes  and released their juices, transfer them to a parchment- or foil-lined sheet pan. Roast for about 30 minutes, stirring the berries after about 15 minutes. When they are done, they should be soft but not shriveled; their juices should have thickened slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe adapted from    Stephanie Lock

Recipe adapted from Stephanie Lock

the love list

the love list // millys-kitchen.com

Hello!

I’m writing you this from the comfort of my couch, where I intend to spend the majority of the next 48 hours. 

A nasty spring flu has been making the rounds here in Seattle. It knocked Beau out for most of last week, before moving on to our friends and neighbors. I escaped the worst of it somehow. Which seemed like a pretty big win until I realized that lethargically dragging my tired ass through the week while refusing to believe I was sick was not as huge a “win” as one might think.

So, in an effort to prioritize taking care of myself over conquering the week’s to-do list, I’ve decided to take the weekend off. Not the usual "off" where I may not be “working” but I’m certainly getting shit done. Nope. I mean truly and fully off. I’m going to lie on the couch with my cat and binge watch period films on Netflix (See you soon, Kiera Knightley!) until I feel better. I’m going to read and sleep and maybe--maybe--bake myself the almond cake I’ve been jonesing for all week. The end. 

But before I sign off and enter the blissed-out realm of couch-bound convalescence, I wanted to leave you with a Love List for the weekend. I couldn’t help myself. Plus, the list of things I wanted to share with you was starting to get a little unruly! So here you go:

 

- First up, Rhubarb! I'm working on a new recipe for a flourless rhubarb-almond cake, which means I've been all over the internet looking for inspiration. I've come across so many gorgeous desserts featuring my favorite spring flavor, I hardly know which one to try first. But my love of dense, unfussy tea cakes would put this beauty near the top of the list.

   Photo:  Thea Tillberg

 

Photo: Thea Tillberg

 

- If you've been following along on the blog for a while, you know Beau and I moved into our new house! You may also have noted that I spent a ridiculous amount of time obsessing about how to decorate the house (as a means of coping with home-buying stress, I think). I'm happy to report, I've managed to back away from round-the-clock interior design related pinning. (High five!) Aaaaand, I've also implemented a few Pinterest-inspired design ideas. Starting with these floating cabinets.

the love list // millys-kitchen.com

These, my friends, are Ikea Besta cabinets, mounted to float about 6 inches off the floor. Our 1948 bungalow is diminutive with fairly low ceilings, so I was looking for a storage solution that would keep things neat without taking up too much space. I had originally intended to top these with a salvaged wood top. But I was so happy with the clean lines of the white cabinets against the white wall, I’ve decided to leave them as-is for now. What do you think?

 

- I loved this essay by David Brooks on how the appreciation of beauty is the path to a rich inner life as well as nobility of spirit and is more crucial now than ever. 

 

- As long as we're talking about beauty, I have some homework for you this week: I want you to buy or pick yourself a bouquet of fresh flowers. It's one of the best mood lifters around. A few days ago I discovered that the unremarkable bush lurking in the corner of our front yard is actually a mature lilac, which has now burst into bloom. Today, I picked an armload of fragrant purple flowers for the house. I often forget what a difference such a simple gesture can make. How taking a few minutes to slow down and contemplate natural beauty puts you fully in touch with your senses. And I had certainly forgotten how a bouquet of lilacs can transform your entire house with its delicate, old-fashioned scent. So, you've got your assignment. I want to see flowers in your house by Monday!

the love list // millys-kitchen.com

 

- For those of you looking for some weekend cookbook inspiration, I highly recommend Tara O'Brady's gorgeous Seven Spoons. As usual, I'm late to the party. The food cognoscenti have been swooning over this book since it came out last year. My self-imposed cookbook moratorium meant that I couldn't join in on the swooning. But having fallen in love with Tara's blog, I broke down and got it last week. I don't know how I'm going to shove it onto the shelf with the other cookbooks, but I do know I can't wait to make everything in here! Starting with this beautiful Fattoush with Fava Beans and Labneh. I'll be reporting in on this one soon!

 

- Because it wouldn't be the weekend (or a Love List) without a cocktail, here's a recipe for Orange Spiced Iced Coffee, which I intend to spike with a little rum and drink all summer long.

 

Wishing you a Happy Weekend--whether on or off the couch!

xo,

Olaiya