Friday, October 7, 2011

Vegetable Soup w/Tarragon Pistou

Cold weather is on it's way!  It's time for soups, stews and all things that bring comfort ( and calories)!  While I am looking forward to a lazy day (or just few hours) of cooking hearty stews  along with big hefty loaves of warm bread, I don't welcome the extra calories that go along with those favorites.

Somehow, I never lost my winter pelt from last season. Sadly, I have to face the fact that I can no longer rely on my super-charged-hyper-activity to keep my weight in check as I maintain a butter and cream supply that would make Ms. Paula Dean envious.  I have to make some changes, and I am not really doing so gracefully.  Change is good, I know, but life with less butter just seams scary.

So, in the spirit of making a few healthy tweaks in my recipes, I thought I'd offer a very basic vegetable soup recipe with an-over-the-top punch of flavor from one of my favorite herbs.  Tarragon.  Luckily, it grows rather well in our climate, and when made into a Pistou ( a cold french sauce made of herbs, garlic and olive oil),  it delivers a high concentration of extraordinary flavor.

veg soup w/tarragon pistou

 We made this soup last week at one of my cooking demonstrations and it was a huge hit. The big flavor comes from a combination of fresh tarragon, parsley, garlic and olive oil. It's a refreshing departure from the usual basil pesto, and it does not contain any extra calories from nuts or parmesan cheese.  As with many of the recipes you will find on this blog, the recipe is merely a suggestion.  Personally, I feel the Pistou could, and should be used the way you would use salt, or any condiment.  It's a flavor enhancer. Think of making a cilantro-parsley mix for been soups, a parsley-sage mix for turkey noodle soup, a cilantro-mint-basil for asian soups, ....I can keep going, but you get the idea.. The star really is the Pistou, as it can take a humble vegetable soup and elevate it to "I could lick the bowl" status.   I hope you will give this one a try!

           French Vegetable Soup w/Tarragon Pistou

2 Tablespoons Olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks Celery, diced
2 carrots, peeled & diced
2 parsnips, peeled & diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large red skinned potatoes, scrubbed & diced
1 bouquet garni (2 bay leaves, 6 peppercorns, 6 stems of parsley, 4 stems thyme)
1 quart Vegetable stock
1 quart water
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup fresh green beans, chopped
1 can garbonzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups kale, stems & spine removed, chopped.
Salt & pepper to taste.

Heat a 5-quart pot over medium heat, then add olive oil, onion, celery, carrots, garlic and parsnips and sweat vegetables for 10 minutes.  You want them to gently release their liquid, and not to have any discernible coloring ( no browning). Next, add potatoes, herbs, veg stock, water and tomatoes to pot and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Once potatoes are tender add beans, green beans and kale, then simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes. Remove bay leaves, parsley & thyme stems and season with salt and pepper.  

To serve: Ladle soup into warm bowls and top with 1Tablespoon Pistou and serve with crusty french bread.

Tarragon Pistou

1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 tarragon leaves, no stem
3/4 cup parsley leaves
1/2 extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine all ingredients into a small food processor and process for 3 minutes. Be sure to scrape down the sides.  Taste Pistou, and adjust the salt, and add more tarragon for a stronger flavor, or more parsley for a milder flavor.  Store any unused Pistou in a covered container, topped with a thin layer of olive oil.  It will last a week in the refrigerator, or 1 month in the freezer. 

Take a look at these great soups from previous posts: 

**  Savory Butternut Squash Soup w/smoked paprika seeds

** Colorado Onion Sage Soup - ( my last class voted this the BEST french onion soup they'd ever's all about slowly, slowly, slowly caramelizing your onions.. perfect for a cold fall day)!


Chef Deb Traylor

I also have info on upcoming cooking classes and demo's at Mountain High Appliance in Louisville,

Includes: Salted Caramel Sauce, Homemade Cellos (lemon and others),  fruit compotes, etc..

Cost:  $20 per class
Advance registration required by contacting Barbara at
303-951-0524 or

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fried Green Tomatoes w/goat cheese & tarragon vinaigrette

It's been a long, long time since I've posted ANYTHING!

All I can say is, life (bad, good, and incredible) got first dibs on my attention.   I have two fabulous ladies, who devoutly attend my cooking classes, ( and to whom,  I will owe $20 each, if I don't blog soon) to thank for pushing me back into the water.


FGT's w/goat cheese & tarragon vin..

I LOVE, love, love this salad.

Except for those brief moments in summer, where tomatoes are so perfectly ripe they need JUST the slightest suggestion of salt, the biggest motivation to plant tomatoes is....FGT's.  Fried Green Tomatoes! I purposely plant too many tomato seeds each spring solely to support my green tomato obsession.

I am arriving late to the wonders of FGT's, as I never had them as a child, teenager or even as young adult. Unfortunately, in my "pre chef, food-nerd" days,  if it did not come from a can or was not cooked to a point beyond recognition, my family did not serve such things.  In truth, it was not until a few years ago when someone asked me for additional ideas to utilize a bumper crop of green tomatoes, that I even gave FGT's a thought. Once I made my first batch, I was in love.  For some reason, this is it for me.  I see no reason to even suggest other recipes. If I had to choose my last meal, it would most certainly include various forms of FGT's. This humble little offering captures my complete attention (if you know me, then you know that's saying a lot).   What I love is biting into the crispy, crunchy cornmeal, and then the firm, thick, tangy flesh of the warm tomato.  I honestly eat about three or four ( or six) before any can actually make it to a plate or platter.

 I've paired the green tomatoes from my garden with spicy baby arugula, local goat cheese (Haystack), and tarragon (my garden, too), to make a wonderful end of summer salad.

Note:  Feel free to slice the tomatoes as thin or thick as you prefer, I like thick slices. Also, I use a three part dipping process: flour ( or GF substitute), egg & water mixture, and cornmeal.  I use this combination because I like the results, but feel free to substitute a little panko (japanese bread crumbs) in for some of the cornmeal.  This salad taste best when served while still warm.

    Fried Green Tomatoes w/Haystack Goat Cheese & Tarragon Vinaigrette 

Serves 4
2 large green tomatoes, sliced 1/4"-1/2" thick
1 local eggs
1/4 cup water
1 cup flour ( or GF substitute, or rice flour)
1 cup corn meal ( or 1/2 c. corn meal & 1/2 cup panko)
2 salt
1 cup canola, vegetable or olive oil 
2 oz. local goat cheese (I like Haystack Applewood smoked, or feta)
2 cups baby arugula
Tarragon Vinaigrette (Recipe follows)

First, slice tomatoes and salt and pepper both sides.

Next, take 3 bowls or shallow containers with rims.  Place flour in bowl one, eggs mixed with water in bowl two, and corn meal in bowl three.  Lightly salt and pepper the flour and the corn meal .  Your bowls should be set up: Flour, egg, corn meal.  Dip each tomato slice in the flour first, then egg mixture, then corn meal.  Set aside until oil is ready.

Heat a medium sized skillet over medium high heat for two minutes,  then add 1/2 cup oil and heat for 1 minute, carefully add tomatoes to skillet (make sure you do not crowd the pan), and cook until the coating is lightly browned. Turn the tomatoes and brown on the other side.  Remove tomatoes and drain on paper towels. Repeat until all tomatoes are browned, adding oil when needed.  NOTE:  if the corn meal in the pan begins to burn after your second batch,  remove the pan from the heat, and carefully wipe out the corn meal bits and begin again with fresh oil.

To plate:  Toss arugula with a little vinaigrette and divide between the four plates, top arugula with 2-3 slices of FGT's, crumble goat cheese on top and drizzle a tablespoon of vinaigrette over the top.  I usually bring extra vinaigrette to the table.  Enjoy!

                      Tarragon Vinaigrette

1 tsp finely chopped shallot
1 Tbl Dijon mustard
1 Tbl local honey
2-3 Tbl Fresh Tarragon, chopped ( please do not use dried)
1/4 cup white wine (or champagne, or rice wine) vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Whisk together shallots, dijon, honey, 1/2 the tarragon and the white wine vinegar until thoroughly combined.  While whisking slowly add in olive oil until emulsified, add other half of tarragon,  season with salt and pepper to taste.  You can also use a blender or a hand held blender to make the vinaigrette, however you may have to increase the recipe to make it work in a large blender.  This Vinaigrette will last about a week in the refrigerator.