The new issue (volume no. 6) of Canal House Cooking has just arrived at my door, its bright green cover immediately putting me in a spring mood. Also on the cover is a picture of a heavily loaded grocery cart, hinting at this edition's delightful theme: The Grocery Store.
Read on for a review and a tasty, perfect-for-spring recipe from the book!
In their introduction, authors Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer pay homage to their local ShopRite which is more like an old-fashioned grocery store than the megamarts we so often find these days. ShopRite is a place where you can get good honest food for a fair price plus the occasional special treat like a decent brand of olive oil or special butter. I'm immediately on board with this theme because in my world there's nothing better than a trip to the grocery store to stock the pantry and discover something new and inspiring.
This issue is also the Spring edition, so there's plenty here for seasonal cooking, too. The vegetable section features asparagus, escarole, fava beans, and naturally lots of pea recipes (see my favorite, below.) I also enjoy seeing some retro recipes like Chicken Kiev and Chicken Cordon Bleu and classic Fish Sticks (not the frozen kind!) and Crab Cakes made with Ritz Crackers and Old Bay Seasoning.
The chapter called Crax & Butter for Dinner is also worth noting. Who hasn't occasionally indulged in this quick and easy way to fill the belly after a long hard day? Here you will find recipes for Smoked Salmon Butter, Anchovy & Lemon Butter and Welsh Rabbit, which is accompanied by a sweet childhood memory complete with a fort made under the stairs on a rainy spring day, a copy of Jane Eyre and the titular cheesy dish.
The Canal House Cooking books are well worth collecting. Now that I've all but abandoned my magazine subscriptions, these slim hardcover books help ease my withdrawal pains. It's a happy day when a Canal House book arrives in the post!
• What's Exciting: Coleman Andrew's homage to a favorite grocery store, Corti Brothers in Sacramento, CA; A Celebration of Spring menu which includes Savory Asparagus Bread Pudding, Easter Ham and Meringues with Strawberries & Roasted Rhubarb; and a Breakfast All Day Long chapter with The Best Waffles in the World and Creamed Chicken.
• Find the book: Canal House Cooking is released three time a year and can be purchased as a subscription ($49.95/year) or in individual volumes ($19.95 each.)
• For More Information: Visit the Canal House Cooking website where there is additional content and a pdf of several pages to give you a nice peek inside the latest edition.
I adore this soup for many reasons. First, it's a cinch to throw together, requiring only a simple chop for the leek and potato. Second, all the ingredients tend to be in my pantry or freezer, and yes, use frozen peas even though it's spring as frozen peas are usually the freshest and sweetest. And finally, besides being beautifully green and full of fresh pea flavor, this soup is equally delicious served hot or cold. Perfect for a spring lunch, when the weather can go either way at a moment's notice!
Fresh Pea Soup
Makes 6 cups
leek, trimmed, washed and sliced
russet potato, peeled and cut into small pieces
(6 cups) frozen peas
Salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring often, until soft but not colored, about 10 minutes.
Add the potatoes and chicken broth to the pot and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the peas and season with some salt and pepper. When the peas are heated through, about 1 minute, remove the pot from the heat.
Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender. For a smoother texture, pass it through a strainer into a bowl, discarding the solids. Taste the soup and season it with more salt, if you like, as it will probably need it.
Return the soup to the pot and warm it over low heat. Or, cover and refrigerate it until cold. Serve the soup hot or cold.
We use organic frozen peas to make this beautiful bright-green soup. Adding them to the pot at the tail end of the cooking time preserves their sweet flavor and vivid green color. It's lovely garnished with lots of snipped fresh chives, dill or chervil. Adding a small dollop of creme fraiche, sour cream, or whipped cream to each serving is pretty delicious, too.
(Images: Dana Velden)