- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 20, 2005

For end-of-summer dishes, moving into fall, or for any time of year, plenty of home cooks and professional chefs keep olive oil at hand as they cook nowadays.

This staple of Mediterranean countries and their cuisines is a well-regarded ingredient both for the way it adds to dishes’ flavor and texture, and for its nutritional values.

Here are a couple of original recipes from noted chefs that suggest novel ways to use olive oil in your own cooking repertoire. Both of the recipes were created for olive oils from Spain.

Chef Dean Fearing of the highly praised Mansion on Turtle Creek restaurant in Dallas has worked out a recipe for a potato and watercress soup with a few stylish but easy extra touches.

The versatile soup can fill the bill as a first course, or as a light lunch with crusty bread and a salad. It’s served warm for days when soup once again sounds like a welcome idea.

Mr. Fearing says he aimed for a creamy soup, but added texture with the mushrooms and chicken, which also enhance the flavor. “I try and create new things for each season, and I came up with this recipe a few winters ago and it has been a big seller in the restaurant when it is cool outside,” he says. He recommends a light olive oil, which he often uses, for this particular recipe.

From Wylie Dufresne, chef and co-owner of New York City’s WD-50 restaurant, comes a recipe for a creamy dressing he describes as olive oil-avocado creme. “We served a version of the creme with a cold rabbit sausage at the restaurant, but it can be used in place of mayonnaise, on sandwiches or bruschetta, as a pasta sauce, or as a side with any cold meat or seafood,” he says, adding that it’s delicious with shrimp.

Mr. Dufresne likes a fruity olive oil for this recipe, but thinks it also works well with the fresher, greener and peppery oils too. He suggests using vitamin C powder in the creme’s preparation to keep the avocado from turning brown (the powder is available at health food stores).

Olive oil-avocado creme

1/4 teaspoon vitamin C powder

3 tablespoons water

2 ripe Haas avocados, peeled, pitted and cut into large chunks

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon Greek yogurt

Salt to taste

Dissolve vitamin C powder in water. Puree all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Adjust seasoning to taste. If not using immediately, place plastic film directly on the surface of the creme and keep refrigerated until ready to use for up to two days.

Makes 1½ to 2 cups.

Idaho potato and watercress soup with chicken and oven-roasted mushrooms

1/4 cup olive oil plus 1 tablespoon

2 onions, cut into medium dice

3 cloves garlic, chopped (about 1 tablespoon)

5 cups chicken stock

2 Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into medium dice (about 4 cups)

2½ cups wild mushrooms, washed, chopped

3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

2 teaspoons cracked black pepper

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme

Salt to taste

1 cup heavy cream

2 cups roughly cut watercress leaves

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, added to taste

1 to 1½ cups stewed, shredded or chopped chicken meat

Optional garnish: a few sprigs of fresh thyme or cilantro

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir in onions. Saute on medium heat for 7 to 10 minutes, or until onions are soft and juices have cooked down. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.

Add chicken stock and potatoes and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are fully cooked and soft.

While the soup is simmering, heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl add cleaned mushrooms, shallots, cracked black pepper, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, chopped parsley and thyme. Mix ingredients and season with salt to taste. Spill mixture onto a baking sheet and place in oven.

Bake for 10 minutes or until mushrooms have become tender but still firm. Let mushrooms cool slightly and set aside.

Stir cream into soup and add watercress and cook for 5 additional minutes. Remove from heat.

Pour soup into a blender and blend until very smooth.

Season with salt and fresh lemon juice to taste. Add stewed chicken to warm soup (if the soup cools after blending, reheat because it should be served warm) and pour equal portions into 6 warm soup bowls (if the soup cools after blending, reheat because it should be served really well warmed).

Divide roasted mushrooms among the bowls, allowing them to just float on surface.

Garnish with thyme or cilantro, if desired. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.


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