Only a few official days of summer left and then we are on to fall. The subtle reminders are there: cooler evenings, the displays of pumpkins and colorful mums at the entrances of grocery stores, and the return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks; all clues that we are making the transition into a new season.
Here in the south though, the days can remain quite warm for a while yet, which tends to leave me feeling a bit confused about what I want to eat. On the super warm days I am still content with summer food: something right off the grill with crisp garden ready veggies still do the trick. But then when we have a few nights that get chilly, and days that aren’t so scorching hot, I’m not really sure what I’m in the mood for.
On those cooler days, the first thing I start to think about is soup. Not the stick-to-your-ribs kinds of soups, but definitely something warm and satisfying.
In comes my Tomatillo Bisque. I have been making this soup for years. I often serve it as a first course in the winter months as a lead into a southwestern menu, and sometimes I make it with some added chicken and enjoy it for lunch or dinner all on its own like I’ve done here.
This soup is nice and light, with some really good tang from the tomatillos and lime crema…and of course I love the crispy tortilla strip garnish!
You’ll find fresh tomatillos in the produce section of your grocery store. To check for freshness, look for firm tomatillos with tight fitting paper like husks. You’ll want to keep them refrigerated (unlike tomatoes) until ready to use.
Tomatillos are a key ingredient for green sauces in Mexican and Central American cuisine, but they are also offer fantastic flavor for soup!
Tomatillo Bisque with Chicken, Tortilla Crisps, & Lime Crema
16 ounces tomatillos, husked, washed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped sweet onion (such as Vidalia)
2 teaspoons sea salt
1½ tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
½ cup chopped cilantro, divided
1 serrano chile, chopped
5 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons corn starch
4 corn tortillas, cut into thin strips
Canola oil for frying tortillas
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 Roma tomatoes, diced (for garnish)
½ cup sour cream
2 teaspoons lime juice
Place tomatillos on a baking sheet and broil until lightly charred and softened, about 15 minutes. Remove blistered skin from tomatillos and discard, reserving tomatillos.
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and salt, and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic, oregano, 1 tablespoon of the cilantro, and the chile; continue to cook, stirring frequently, an additional 2 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Dissolve corn starch in a little cold water and add to the soup and continue to simmer an additional 2 minutes to thicken. Cool soup slightly. Add roasted tomatillos to soup and puree, using an immersion blender, or process in mixer in batches.
(Soup may be prepared 1 day ahead and reheated.)
Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with *crispy tortilla strips, chicken, diced tomatoes, a dollop of *lime crema and remaining cilantro.
*Crispy Tortilla Strips:
Fill a large cast iron skillet with 1-inch of canola oil and heat to 350 degrees over medium high heat. Add tortilla strips, and fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towel lined plate. (May be fried 1 day ahead.)
For Lime Crema: whisk ingredients together in a small bowl.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy the true flavor of artichokes is to just steam them and dip the leaves indulgently into melted butter with an added squeeze of lemon–perfection. Stuffing artichokes with buttery breadcrumbs, cheese, and herbs is pretty hard to beat too. While both of these options are delicious, they aren’t exactly what you would categorize with #light , #healthy , #SummerBeachBody tags.
The artichokes I’m sharing here today however, are something you can feel great about eating. They are low in fat, calories, and packed with a protein boost from the quinoa.
This recipe came together one afternoon when I was trying to figure out what I was going to make for dinner with the stuff I had on hand. Quinoa (ready in 15 minutes) has become kind of my go-to backdrop on these kinds of days, where often times I throw together a saute of whatever vegetables are in the fridge and toss it together with a few herbs or chiles.
On this particular day, I spotted the artichokes and decided my usual saute would make a really nice filling. Why not? —-Dinner was saved and we all loved the artichokes. I hope you will too!
¼ cup chopped sundried tomatoes (oil packed--drained)
Kernels from 2 ears fresh corn
5 ounces baby spinach
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup prepared pesto (good quality jarred or homemade)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 large artichokes, stems trimmed, thorns trimmed from leaves
Heat water to boil in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Add quinoa, reduce heat to low; cover, and simmer 1 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic, and sundried tomatoes; cook, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Add corn and spinach, cooking an additional 2 minutes, until spinach has wilted. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Add cooked quinoa to bowl with shallot mixture. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, and pesto to bowl; toss well. Season with salt and pepper.
Using a spoon, stuff about 1 teaspoon of filling into the bottom of
each artichoke leaf. Place artichokes in a vegetable steamer or into a large pan with a steamer basket insert and steam artichokes 45-50 minutes or until artichoke leaves release easily when pulled.
When it comes to entertaining in the summer, I like to keep it casual and relaxed. A fun and refreshing cocktail to get the evening started, and then a meal complete with something off the grill, and some really nice make ahead side salads and gratins that feature the farmer’s market’s best ingredients. For dessert, I like to go with something fresh and fruity with things like cherries, peaches, and berries.
I just finished teaching a week of cooking classes the last before summer break, that featured this menu:
Pickled Shrimp & Tomato Skewers
Grilled Tri Tip Steaks with Smoky Steak Sauce
Roasted Fingerling Potato Salad with Corn, Blue Cheese, and Lemony Creme Fraiche Dressing
Tomato Gratin with Asiago Bread Crumbs
Individual Bourbon Spiked Cherry Pies
The entire menu was make-ahead friendly, perfect for serving buffet style, and delicious eaten at room temperature. Exactly what I wanted for my casual no-stess evening.
Having everything ready before your guests arrive will definitely make you smile. You are sure to have fun, and will feel ready to enjoy that cool refreshing cocktail or two with your guests, instead of running around trying to pull everything together at the last minute.
I posted a picture of the little cherry pies on Instagram before class started…
but it’s the potato salad that I am featuring today. A spin on traditional potato salad, I have roasted the potatoes to bring out their warm, sweet flavor. Fresh corn & blue cheese also get tossed into the bowl and I used creme fraiche as a base for the dressing, which added a really nice tang.
—–And as long as you have creme fraiche and blue cheese in the mix, why not really take it over the top and add in a bit of crispy bacon crumbles too if you like. That combination would go really well alongside some ribs—-and a perfect addition to your Father’s Day grill menu.
Roasted Fingerling Potato Salad with Corn, Blue Cheese & Lemony Creme Fraiche Dressing
2 pounds fingerling potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ cup creme fraiche
1½ tablespoons lemon juice
Kernels from 3 ears of corn
3 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
3 tablespoons lemon zest
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
1½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss potatoes together with the olive oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl; transfer to a large baking sheet and roast 45 minutes. Cool potatoes to room temperature.
Whisk together the creme fraiche, lemon juice, lemon zest, and garlic in a large bowl. Add potatoes, corn, and blue cheese and toss well to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired. Mix together the Italian parsley, tarragon, and chives in a small bowl. Sprinkle herb mixture over salad and serve.