I thought my first post of the year would be a cold winter salad…hah! Today it is below zero in Chicago and with our famous “wind” the chill factor makes it feel like Siberia (or at least what I think Siberia might feel like). Chicago’s sometimes jokingly called, “Chiberia”. We have been duly warned not even to go outside unless we have to, and salad is not what’s on my mind, something warm and hugging is. I want dinner to wrap me like a toasty blanket, sooth me like crackling fire and make me smile like an old movie…I want soup! Not just any soup either, I want gutsy old fashioned taste…I want my Aunt Mary’s vegetable beef noodle soup!
I know that there are lots of soup recipes out there. What makes this one different is the cabbage…that’s right, cabbage. Maybe it comes from our roots in a city known for its German heritage (Cincinnati) but cabbage is the ingredient that takes this soup from the ordinary to a more flavorful, richer level.
Parched air comes alive with the moisture of soup cooking all day on the back burner, making the static atmosphere feel and smell heavenly. I cook this soup a LONG time, at least 3 hours, so that the meat becomes so tender it just falls off the bone and the cabbage is no longer definable. Then I add the remainder of the ingredients, cooked till just tender and serve piping hot. Hot on a night like this is very welcome indeed.
Aunt Mary always used short ribs for this soup. It will not taste the same with a lean alternative but I did find a way to add more meat with not quite as much fat…flat iron steak. I still use short ribs but trim most of the fat. The short ribs have bones which of course add a lot of flavor, but the steak adds more meat without quite as much fat. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to skim around the bowl chasing a tiny bit of meat that sometime appears…if I’m cooking beef soup, I want to find some!
So, tonight we’re settling in with a fire blazing and this soup, I hope that your friends and family enjoy it the next time that you make a winter’s Sunday Supper.
Hearty Old Fashioned Vegetable Beef Noodle Soup
Yield: 8 - 10 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes
A hearty soup perfect for a cold winter's night.
1 1/2 lbs. short ribs trimmed of excess fat
1 lb. flat iron steak (also known as top blade roast)
1 large onion,chopped
1 small head of cabbage, sliced very thin (about 3 cups)
2 14.5 can of diced tomatoes
4 cups water
3 ribs celery, sliced
3 large carrots, sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 (16 oz.) package mixed vegetables
2 cups cooked egg noodles (prepared as per package directions)
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a large pot, add short ribs, flat iron steak, onion, cabbage, diced tomatoes, water and celery. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower heat to a low simmer and let cook for about 2 3/4 hours. Remove meat and let cool. Shred meat from bones and shred the steak, add back into soup. Then add the carrots and package of mixed vegetables. When carrots and vegetables are cooked, but still crisp, add 2 cups of cooked noodles.
Serve piping hot.
As Return to Sunday Supper celebrates its fourth anniversary, I remind myself why I’m doing this. The most obvious is that I like sharing my stories and recipes, but more than that I hope to inspire you in some way to cook at home a bit more and share meals with your family and friends. I believe that it’s important in so many ways. We all need that human connection that has nothing to do with electronic devices.
So as we go forward with another year, I want to thank all of you who have been reading Sunday Supper. I am excited to share more of my heritage recipes as well as new ones I’m loving right now…I hope that you enjoy them as well.
He would arrive at our door in his well-worn, brown plaid hat, with packages wrapped in white tissue paper and tied with green ribbon tucked under his arm. We knew without being told what was hidden behind that tissue… our favorite gift, Granddad’s nut bread. Much better than the tidy envelopes with checks folded in each one that he would pass out after dinner, Granddad’s nut bread was a gift bursting with so much love it was palpable. The only year that he did not bake was the one when Gram passed right before Christmas. That was the first year I made it…somehow it didn’t taste as good…nothing tasted as good that year. After her passing, he didn’t see the need for the tissue…plastic bags were easy and practical.
As soon as he would walk in the door we would eagerly open one of the packages and place thick slices of nut bread onto a plate to be passed at dinner. What we really looked forward to, though, was having it for breakfast–and we still do! It’s so rich and good that it does not really need the fresh butter that we sometimes slather on top. Its dense and distinctive flavor comes from a generous helping of black walnuts. Now, if you’ve never tasted black walnuts, you’re in for a treat. They are much more earthy and intense than regular English walnuts. They give this bread an Old World European flavor that you might find at a bakery in a tiny hamlet in the Black Woods.
Years ago, we asked him to write the recipe down for us so that we would be able to continue the family tradition of making the nut bread at Christmas. True to his personality, he typed several pages of notes, detailing the history of the bread and how he liked to prepare it. The recipe originally came from his maiden Aunt Anna, from LaCrosse, Wisconsin. He pointed out that you want to use large pieces of only the freshest nuts and, as he said, “the more the merrier!” He told us how to find a supplier for the nuts, even telling us where to look in the Yellow Pages. (He didn’t start to “Google” till years later.)
Jack passed in 2012….. This is the first year that I have been able to bring myself to make his bread and I have decided to share a bit of our heritage with you. I hope that you and your family and friends enjoy it as much as we do.
Wishing all of you a joyous holiday and wonderful New Year!
Old Fashioned Black Walnut Bread Recipe
Yield: 12 slices
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour, ten minutes
Old fashioned goodness, with a rich, nutty taste.
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup black walnuts
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Adjust baking rack so that it is in the center of your oven.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour a loaf pan.
In a large bowl whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together till they are well blended. Stir in the nuts, making sure that they are evenly distributed.
In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg.
Slowly, (a bit at a time) add the liquid to the dry ingredients till well mixed.
Pour into pan and put place on the rack in the middle of the oven.
Bake for 1 hour. Test to see if a toothpick comes out clean after an hour, if not, bake a few minutes longer, but do not over bake.
Remove from oven and place on cooling rack. As soon as possible, remove from pan and let cool. Place in a plastic bag and store for a day before serving. Bread will keep for a week in the refrigerator.
Warning: Please don’t read this post if you are looking for a gourmet recipe. This is one of my family heritage recipes and is as “down home” as you can get. My family has been asking me to post this for years. I haven’t reinvented, adapted or changed a thing. This is just how my Aunt Mary made her green beans every Thanksgiving (and any other time we convinced her to make them).
Aunt Mary hailed from Southern Indiana. She grew up raising her own vegetables and canning the produce she grew. She stocked her freezer with locally sourced meat meat (she personally knew the farmer) and made the most from all of the bounty surrounding her. Her meals were legendary. She and my Uncle Jack would have everyone that needed a friend, a family or a meal over to their house for Thanksgiving…including their niece whose parents had died and was living with them (that’s me). I watched her cook almost every day when I lived there and learned a LOT…including how to make her famous beans.
I have been making these for years, and our Thanksgiving dinner wouldn’t be the same without them. Now, please don’t try to change this recipe…I did so many years ago and it just wasn’t the same and actually will taste bland in comparison to the real thing. I know, many of you will struggle with using canned green beans. Believe me, I’ve tried fresh and they just don’t work (but of course Aunt Mary always used beans and tomatoes that she had canned herself). Also, don’t try to shorten the cooking time…the beans need to meld with the flavor of the ham, onion and tomato. If you’ve ever been down South and had a mess of anything green with anything smoked, you know what I’m talking about. You just need to put them on the back burner and forget about them for a few hours. Have your steamed, sauteed or grilled veggies another day…Thanksgiving belongs to Aunt Mary!
Country Style Green Bean Recipe
Yield: 6-8 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Green beans rich with smoking goodness.
4 - 14.5 oz. cans of green beans (do not drain liquid)
1 - 13.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes (do not drain liquid)
1 - smoked ham or pork shank
1 - large onion, peeled (but not sliced)
Salt and pepper to taste (see note below)
In a large pot, add shank and onion then cover with the beans and diced tomatoes, stir to combine. Bring to a boil then immediately reduce to a simmer and cook covered for at least 2 hours.
After 2 hours, remove ham and let cool. After ham is cool, shred small pieces of meat from the bone. Add back to the beans and tomatoes and stir.
Serve piping hot.
Please note: If you use beans and tomatoes that contain salt, I personally don't feel that you have to add any to the recipe. You may also add a few fresh grinds of black pepper as well.
After the wedding, Jeff and I thought that a change of scenery would be an excellent idea. We hadn’t been to Pennsylvania since before Dana was born, but we have fond memories of our trips there…so, off we went on a perfect Autumn getaway.
Our first stop was The Inn at Barley Sheaf Farm. This is where we stayed previously and we knew from experience that it was a good base from which to tour the area. It seems that The Inn had been sold a few times since our last visit, but it was great to see that the new owners, Mark and Deanne, are proud first time innkeepers and that their standards are as high (if not higher) than the previous owners. They have ambitious plans for the future; including a new state of the art kitchen for their chef. Sadly, they only serve dinner Wednesday through Saturday, so we missed out on what sounded like delicious locally sourced meals from an up and coming young chef.
This Bucks County landmark was originally part of the William Penn Land Grant. The historic field stone manor house was built in 1740. Almost 200 years later it became the country home of Pulitzer-prize winning playwright, George S. Kaufman. Kaufman collaborated with other talented writers to produce some of Broadway’s best plays during the golden age of theater; such as: The Man Who Came to Dinner, You Can’t Take it with You and the Marx Brothers classic, Animal Crackers. In the sitting room of The Inn is a display case of memorabilia including pictures of his celebrity house parties. I have a feeling that many Sunday Suppers were held here surrounded by lots of laughter. I chuckle just thinking what Harpo’s antics might have been at the dinner table.
Speaking of the dinner table…we were hungry and the kitchen was closed. We consulted Deanne and were sent into Doylestown to Slate Bleu, a French Bistro which thankfully was one of the few restaurants open on Monday. We were delightfully surprised to find a bit of Provence in a cozy brick building on Main Street. Later we found out that the chef came to the area after working at La Grenouille in New York and the food reflected that classic culinary heritage.
We had a delicious dinner that included many small plates of French inspired goodness that all started with a savory amuse bouche that I’ve recreated here. Bursting with butter, cheese and egg, it was perfect with our first sip of wine. I thought that it would make a lovely appetizer for your next Sunday Supper with family and friends and these are perfect for the holidays.
Savory French Cheese Puff Recipe
Yield: 32 puffs
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
A savory appetizer that is bursting with butter and cheese, perfect for the holidays.
1 cup milk
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 large eggs (1 for egg wash)
1 1/4 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded (1/4 cup is for sprinkling on the top)
1/4 cup water (for egg wash)
Pinch of fresh nutmeg
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk together 1 egg and water.
In a medium saucepan, combine milk, butter and salt and bring to a boil. Stir ingredients making sure that all of the butter has melted.
Add the flour and reduce the heat to low and cook for about 2 minutes while mixing rapidly with a wooden spoon till the mixture pulls away from the saucepan.
Transfer dough into a large mixing bowl and let it cool for about 2 minutes. Start to beat in the 5 eggs one at a time making sure that each egg is thoroughly incorporated and dough returns to the original texture before adding another egg. Add the cheese and nutmeg.
Drop tablespoons of batter onto the lined baking sheets 1 inch apart (you may also use a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch round tip).
Brush the tops with the egg wash then sprinkle on the remaining cheese.
Bake for 20 - 25 minutes till they are puffed and golden brown. Bake each batch separately on a rack placed in the center of the oven.
These are great served immediately, but can be made ahead and frozen. Let them cool on wire racks then store in a container in your freezer. When ready to serve, remove from container, place on baking sheets and reheat in a 350 degree oven till hot.