Monthly Archives: November 2011

Under the weather

Ugh. I’ve been sick. It’s one of those dreaded, lingering sicknesses that grabs on when you least expect it and just will not let go. For the last week, I’ve been sniffling, sneezing and coughing my way through germ filled haze. And due to a particularly intense, deadline-heavy, work week there’s been little rest for this weary soul. It’s Sunday night and I’m still exhausted. I still can’t breathe. My throat still hurts.

When the Cold from Hell comes a calling all I want is soup. Not fancy little shooters of creamed imported truffles garnished with foam. I want hearty, homey, soothing soup. A bold, spicy combination that tastes good even when you can’t taste anything at all. The kind that wraps you like a favorite blanket, that eases a raw, scratchy throat, that you pour into a giant mug and eat curled up on the couch with a full DVR.  The kind of soup you just fall into at the end of the day.

Soup like minestrone brimming with pasta, beans, meat and veggies swimming in a flavorful tomato broth. Oh yes. That’s comfort in a bowl.

I did not get to eat this minestrone this week as I made it months ago and all remnants are long, long gone. I just didn’t have the energy to put in the effort to make it. But I dreamed about it. I craved it something fierce as I lopped off the top of a boxed soup from the grocery store and dumped (squeezed?) the contents into a saucepan. It has that kind of slow cooked flavor you expect from your grandmother’s kitchen. I loved the use of Italian sausage here and the slight anise flavor that comes through from the fennel in it. The fresh herbs make it special. And the crusty, cheesy baguette slices? A must. Don’t skip them.

This recipe has a long list of ingredients but it’s really not difficult to make. Just get out your biggest stock pot and start simmering. I made a couple of changes to the original recipe. First, I skipped simmering a head of garlic in the chicken broth. I just pulsed 4 or 5 cloves in the food processor with the other veggies. Also, I had a Parmesan rind on hand, so I tossed that in while the soup simmered. It adds a great salty, cheesy flavor.

This recipe makes a ton (as most soup recipes do) but the flavor only improves over time (again, as most soup recipes do!) It’s the perfect feel better meal. You know, if someone else is making it. 😉

HUNTER’S MINESTRONE (Recipe Source: Tyler Florence via FoodNetwork.com)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 1/2 pound small pasta (I used shells)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 3/4 pound loose sweet Italian pork sausage
  • 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 to 5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Parmesan rind (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley leaves, finely minced
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • 12 slices baguette
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.
  2. Chop the carrots, celery, onion and garlic in the food processor. Set aside.
  3. Pour 1/4 cup olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the fresh herbs and heat the oil over medium heat to infuse it with the flavor of the herbs, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up until well browned.  Add to the saucepan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned.
  4.  Stir in the crushed tomatoes, bay leaf beans, chicken stock and cheese rind. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
  5.  Cook the pasta in the boiling water until just tender, it should be slightly underdone. Drain and stir into the simmering soup. Add the parsley, and salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste. Discard the bay leaf and herb sprigs.
  6.  To serve, preheat the broiler. Put the baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the Parmigiano and broil until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Ladle the soup into bowls and float a couple of the baguette slices on top.
    Serves 6 to 8.

*Note*: This soup freezes great! If planning to freeze, I recommend only making enough pasta for the servings you plan to eat so that the cooked pasta doesn’t turn to mush. While reheating from the freezer, just cook up a bit more pasta and it will taste just as good as it did the first time around.

ENJOY! 🙂

 

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Filed under pasta, sausage, soup

Love it or hate it.

Here’s the thing. My husband did not like this meal. At all.

He did not like it in his bowl, he will not touch it with a pole. He didn’t come right out and say he didn’t like it, but I could tell. I dig.

He was quiet. Ate slowly. Pushing food around with his spoon hoping it would magically disappear. He took giant sips of his drink after every bite. Eventually he told me to stop looking at him. It got awkward real quick. At the end of a silent 15 minutes, he brought picked over his bowl to the kitchen sink and apologized.

For what, I’m not sure. Hey, not everyone likes the same things. It’s cool. Different strokes for different folks, as they say. If anything *I* should have been the one apologizing. Contrary to what he might think sometimes, I don’t set out to feed him things I know he won’t like. Sure, I push the envelope every now and then, that’s just plain fun. But if I seriously think he won’t like a dish, I save it for a night he’s not around.

But, you know what? I’m not apologizing. Because I didn’t think he’d dislike this as much as he did. It was a fluke, I tell ya! There is nothing to be sorry about with this meal. I absolutely loved it. More for me.

I’m usually a purist when it comes to chili – thick, beefy and bursting with beans. A good kick of spice but not melt your face hot. And cheese! Lots of that, please and thank you.

This recipe is so different. It takes all that familiar chili heat and adds a bit of sweet to the mix with tender sweet potatoes and apples The gobs of cheese are swapped for crunchy, healthy pepitas. It’s not as thick as a traditional chili (I actually added a bit of cornstarch slurry at the end to tighten it up) but the flavorful broth of beer and a pepper puree makes the perfect vehicle for dunking a sweet cornbread muffin. It’s delightfully different.

Be brave. Try it. You’ll love it. Or you won’t. 😉

HARVEST CHIPOTLE CHILI (Recipe Source: Midwest Living)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 medium orange sweet peppers, halved and seeded
  • 2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground pork, ground beef or uncooked ground turkey or chicken
  • 1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 pound sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 15 ounce can reduced-sodium pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14 1/2 ounce can hominy or one 15.5-ounce can butter beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14 1/2 ounce can chunky chili-style tomatoes or stewed tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 12 ounce can beer or one 14.5-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 14 1/2 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 medium Granny Smith or tart red apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Roasted, salted pepitas and chopped green onions, for serving. (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a food processor, combine process sweet peppers, chipotle peppers and garlic and pulse with on/off turns until very finely chopped. Set aside.
  2. In a large Dutch oven, cook ground pork and onion over medium-high heat until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain off fat and return to the pot. Add pepper mixture; cook and for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Stir in the sweet potato, pinto beans, drained hominy, undrained tomatoes, beer, chicken broth, apples and salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes or until sweet potato is tender.
  4. Top each serving with pepitas and green onions. Makes 8 servings.

ENJOY! 🙂

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Filed under pork, soup, veggies