Tag Archives: Basil

Gourmet Dinner Starter: Cauliflower Apple Soup

Cauliflower Apple Soup

In September we asked some friends up to the house to help us with the site analysis for building our own pizza oven; one is an engineer, and the other a pizza oven owner.  This story and some cups of cauliflower apple soup are a wonderful example of my motto: Eat well and share the love!

September_Pizza Oven Site Analysis

While the guys evaluated the pizza oven location, we noshed and enjoyed some wine……

Pizza Oven Site Analysis_Noshing

We all love food and we have shared some fabulous meals together, including the Gypsy Kitchen Supper Club.  On a whim, I asked everyone if they would be interested in starting up a gourmet dinner club. Thankfully it was a resounding YES and two spectacular dinners have been hosted already.  Fine wines are poured and the fancy pants recipes are pulled out – the bar has been raised very high so I need to step up my game because David and I are hosting this weekend.

Gourmet Dinners 2012

The Schenker menu is written and we tested some of the recipes beforehand.  The first test was a cauliflower apple soup that will be served as a starter.  The recipe is adapted from the cookbook  The Perfect Bite by Jennifer Jasinski, a Denver chef who owns several restaurants.  I was intrigued when I saw this recipe because, not knowing any better, I would have added potatoes with the cauliflower – which would create a heavier, denser soup.  The apples lighten up the soup and it is full of rich, velvety flavors.  For the soup base, thinly sliced onions are sweated, cauliflower and apples are added and the vegetables simmer in chicken broth.  To finish the soup before pureeing, milk, heavy whipping cream and a few basil leaves are added (the recipe calls for straining the soup but I omitted this step because I like the texture).  For an elegant touch to serve alongside the soup, an apple matchstick salad with red cabbage, shallots and basil are tossed with a green curry vinaigrette.  It gives the soup some crunch and even more depth of flavor.  I think it will be an impressive hit.  Now I need to figure out which wines to pour.

To incorporate Hanukkah, our gourmet dinner will start with some mini 2011 Hanukkah Latkeslatke appetizers along with the usual fixings (our 2011 dinner shown here) and glasses of Prosecco.  The cauliflower apple soup will start off the dinner feast, three more courses will follow, and individual apple galettes with some Andrew Rich 2008 Gewürztraminer dessert wine will finish off the evening.  As usual, I will snap some photos throughout the night and will share the fun with you later.

Cheers to a wonderful Holiday celebration.  May yours be filled with many delicious treats, loved ones, good friends and happy times.

Eat well and share the love!Logo in Word

Cauliflower Apple Soup (print recipe)
Recipe: Adapted from The Perfect Bite by Jennifer Jasinski
Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Makes about 5 cups

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ small sweet onion, very thinly sliced
6 oz. (about 1½ cups) cauliflower flowerets, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 oz. (about 1 cup) chopped apple (Honeycrisp or Fuji) – peeled and seeded, cut into ½ inch pieces
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
½ teaspoon green curry paste (or madras curry)
½ cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup 1% milk
1¼ teaspoon kosher salt
3 large basil leaves
1 tablespoon finely diced shallots or red onion
1 tablespoon chopped basil
½ teaspoon green curry paste
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt and ground pepper
Apple Salad
1 apple (Honeycrisp or Fuji), peeled, seeded and cut into small matchstick pieces
2 tablespoons finely chopped almonds
1 tablespoon basil, chopped
2 tablespoons finely diced red cabbage or radicchio

Soup: In a medium soup pot or Dutch oven, add the butter and heat over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted, add the onions and sweat until translucent, about 10 minutes; do not brown the onions.

Add the chopped cauliflower, apples and ½ teaspoon salt; stir well. Cook for about 5 minutes, until cauliflower is just heated through; do not brown. Stir in the chicken broth and curry paste and simmer until cauliflower is tender, about 20 minutes.

Add the cream, milk and ½ teaspoon salt and let simmer on low for 15 minutes.  Transfer half the soup to a blender, add two basil leaves and place a folded kitchen towel over the lid.  With hand on lid so it doesn’t lift off, puree soup until smooth.  Transfer soup to a large bowl and repeat with the remaining soup, adding the last basil leaf.  If desired, strain the soup through a fine sieve for a velvety texture.  If you are serving immediately, transfer all the soup back into the pot and gently reheat – add ¼ teaspoon salt if needed.  Serve immediately. If not serving immediately, refrigerate and gently reheat before serving.

Vinaigrette: Add all ingredients to a medium bowl. Whisk together until combined.

Apple Salad: Add all the ingredients to a medium bowl and dress lightly with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette.  Toss gently, being careful to not break the apple matchstick pieces.

To serve the hot soup, ladle into bowl or cup (if a starter course) and serve with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the apple salad on the side. Before eating, add some of apple salad to the soup and enjoy!

· Use caution with hot items in the blender; the heat can cause the blender lid to blow off.  Be sure to place a folded kitchen towel over the lid and place your hand on top to secure it before turning motor on.  Do not fill more than half full.

Sweet Boy Murphy_October 2012

Sweet Boy Murphy in his element and sporting the “tough guy” look.


Basil & Ginger Granita

With the warmer weather teasing us with spring flowers and greener landscapes, I am ready for summer.  Some basil simple syrup has been on my mind for weeks because I started buying the larger, more economical container of fresh basil and needed to find creative uses for it.  Basil and fresh ginger are tasty companions so I thought they would be fun to combine in a granita, and hopefully hasten the approach of summer (a girl can try).  The recipe is modified from my strawberry granita with vanilla bean whipped cream dessert, but much lighter.  The basil & ginger granita is simple to make and needs several hours, most of the day, to firm up in the freezer.  It’s light and refreshing with subtle hints of basil and ginger flavors – perfect to enjoy outside in the sunshine, or watching the sunset.

Fresh ginger root is sold in the produce department in the grocery store and has an inedible skin.  A spoon is the best tool to peel the skin off; I like to use a serrated grapefruit spoon to make it even easier. Once peeled you can grate it with a microplane zester/grater, or slice it. Here’s a great trick (borrowed from Rachel Ray) to store fresh ginger: peel the root, wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months. Grate or slice what you need off the frozen root and put back in the freezer when done.

For a special topping, I added a few thin slices of candied ginger (also known as crystallized ginger).  As described on the Savory Spice website, it is “young, fibreless ginger that has been steeped in cane sugar syrup and crystallized” – it has a strong but sweet flavor.  You can find it in the spice section of your grocery store or at your favorite spice store.  Ginger is known to help digestion and ease nausea.  In the kitchen, it’s great to have on hand for baking, fruit salads, marinades and granola, or just to eat on its own.  The candied ginger slices are my go-to for an upset stomach.  When we fly, I pack some slices in my purse just in case I need an in-flight fix from turbulence.

Fancy and funky glasses aren’t just for drinking – dress up dessert by using glasses instead of bowls. They are a fun and easy way to make dessert more elegant.  Add some cloth napkins, fancy spoons and you are ready to indulge in style.
Eat well and share the love!

Basil & Ginger Granita (print recipe)
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies, makes about 1 ½ cups granita
Cooking time: 35 minutes, Total cooking time (with freezing): about 6 hours

1¼ cups water
½ cup sugar
12 to 15 large basil leaves, torn – plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped
½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger root – plus 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon
Fresh basil leaves
6 pieces of thinly sliced candied ginger (optional)

Add water and sugar to a medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Stir to dissolve sugar. When sugar is dissolved, reduce the heat to lowest setting and add the torn basil leaves and grated ginger.  Lightly mash the basil leaves with the back of a spoon, to release the oils. Let steep for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice.  Turn heat off and let mixture cool for 15 minutes.

Into an 8” x 8” glass dish, pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve (lightly press on the leaves with the back of a spoon to remove all the liquid and discard leaves) and add 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon grated ginger root.  Stir and cover the dish with plastic wrap and place in freezer.

Let mixture freeze for about 5 hours total.  Every hour, stir with a fork until crystals start to form. Once the mixture starts to firm up (its gets slushy after about 3 hours), scrape with the tines of a fork every 30 to 45 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy and no liquid remains. After the final scraping, add 1 teaspoon chopped basil and stir well to combine. Put the granita back in the freezer and let set for 30 minutes.

To serve, place about ¾ cup of granita into a martini glass or decorative serving glass and garnish with fresh basil leaves and chopped crystalized ginger (optional).  Serve immediately.

Cover and freeze any extra; will keep for 3 or 4 days well-sealed.

  • A note about adding the additional grated ginger to the granita mixture before freezing: If you really enjoy the taste of fresh ginger like me, add ¼ teaspoon and if you prefer a milder taste just add 1/8 teaspoon