Creamy Tomato Soup with Caramelized Onions, Bacon and Chives

tomato soup in pot with chives and bacon

Oh tomatoes!  I cannot wait until they are heavy on the vine, bursting with juice and seeds, ready for BLT’s, tomato sandwiches on homemade white bread, slathered with mayonnaise, cut into wedges ready to scoop up chunky blue cheese dip, or just sliced with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Since the fresh, native ones haven’t arrived yet, I will satisfy my tomato craving with this soup.  All that is required is a few cans of good tomatoes along with the other ingredients that jazz up the flavor.  It reminds me a little of a cross between a BLT and a thick tomato soup that would go great with a melty, gooey grilled cheese sandwich for dunking.

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Focaccia Bread

focaccia bread sprinkled with rosemary and sea salt

 

Yesterday, I was craving fresh, hot pizza.  But we had a lot of leftovers to eat for dinner.  Since I never like to let anything go to waste, the pizza would have to wait.  But I still did not want to let that thought go.  So, I compromised. We needed a little bread to go with dinner, anyway.  At least that is how I justified making this easy focaccia to jazz up our plates.  And, today, there is barely any left.  So, I guess I didn’t need to make any justifications, anyway.

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Fast and Easy Turkey Meatballs in Red Sauce

turkey meatballs in red sauce over pasta with a glass of red wine

Sometimes you just need to get dinner on the table.  Am I right?  Springtime in my household presents numerous challenges when it comes to making a warm, satisfying dinner that can be served at different times throughout the evening.  One kid is off to baseball practice not to return until well after 7:30pm but the dancer would like to eat before class which starts at 6:00pm.  And what about the hangry parents?  (Who do you think will finally get to drink that glass of red wine likely after 8:30pm once everyone is home and showering before bed?)  I also like to make lighter versions of favorite meals since it means I may not be eating until well after regular dinner hours.  That’s where the turkey comes in.  But then there is the problem of dense, dry meatballs due to the lowfat nature of the turkey meat.  I solved that problem by adding ricotta cheese and eggs as well as crumble feta for some extra flavor.  Don’t be alarmed form the meatballs, they are super sticky.  Relax.  Just set up your rolling station right next to your pot of simmering sauce and drop the meatballs in as you roll them.   Boil up some pasta and pour yourself a glass of wine and in no time, you will be a dinner hero.

Turkey Meatballs in Red Sauce

(Makes about 15 meatballs with sauce)

Sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, crushed and minced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1  32 oz. can crushed tomatoes

3 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup red wine

Meatballs:

1 pound ground turkey

2 eggs

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon granulated garlic

1/2 teaspoon aleppo pepper or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

8  oz. whole milk ricotta cheese

4  oz. crumbled feta cheese

Place a large saucepan with a tight fitting lid over medium heat.  Add olive oil and garlic.  Sautee for 3 minutes.  Add salt, pepper, crushed tomatoes, oregano, sugar, water and red wine.  Stir and bring mixture to a simmer.

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients for meatballs.  (Use your hands, its a lot easier than a spoon.)  Form 1″ round meatballs and place them gently into the simmering sauce.  Make one layer along the bottom then gently place more meatballs on top of the first layer.  Add additional layers of meatballs, if necessary.  Place lid on top of pot.  Do not stir.  Allow meatballs to simmer and steam in sauce for 20 minutes.  Remove lid and gently move meatballs around.  Place lid back on top of pot for another 5 minutes.  Remove one meatball to test that meat is cooked through.  Serve over pasta or rice.

 

 

Pureed Provencal White Bean Soup

pureed soup made with white beans, lamb, white wine, carrots, celery, onions and garlic served with crusty bread and Parmesan cheese with a rosemary garnish

 

I love Ina Garten.  Everything about her is chic and fabulous right down to her tailored navy blue shirts .  She lives a glamorous life in the Hamptons where she cooks and hangs out with her friends in her gorgeous home and perfectly kept gardens.  Her food is simple and rustic yet still perfectly in tune with whatever type of party she is hosting.  And the best part is that she never forgets the most important ingredient: the cocktails.

This soup idea came from a recipe Ina made in her show called Four Hour Lamb.  Her version looked mouth-wateringly divine, of course, with the tender meat falling off the bone into a bed of white beans cooked with carrots, onions, celery and bundles of fresh herbs.  She used a whole bottle of wine for her lamb braise.  I didn’t need to use as much for the soup.  So, I was lucky to have a glass while I was making it and another to go with my meal.  I like to think that Ina would agree with my soup/wine combination.  Don’t forget the Parmesan cheese on top and the crusty bread that make this bowl of soup into the perfect French lunch or light dinner, and pour yourself a glass of wine, or two.

 

Pureed Provencal White Bean Soup

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 lamb shoulder chop

salt and pepper

1 medium onion, chopped

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped celery

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup dry white wine

6 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

4 cups chicken stock

3  15 oz. cans white Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard

For serving: Parmesan cheese, crusty bread

  Heat oil in a large soup pot on medium high.  Season lamb chop with salt and pepper,  Sear on both sides then remove from pot.  Add onion, carrots and celery.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until onions soften.  Add garlic and wine.  Tie the thyme and bay leaf together with kitchen twine and add to the pot.  Add rosemary and cook until wine reduces to half.  Add chicken stock and beans.  Cook on low for one hour.

  Remove lamb chop and use meat for another use.  (It’s pretty tough so I removed the bones and fed it to the dog.)  Remove thyme and bay leaf.  Puree soup with a hand immersion blender or allow to cool and puree in a regular blender in batches.  Return soup to pot on low and add vinegar, Worcestershire and mustard.  Stir to combine.  Serve topped with Parmesan Cheese and loaf of crusty bread.

 

Mellow Vegetarian Chili

 

vegetarian chili with carrots, black beans, poblano peppers, topped with cheddar cheese and pickled jalapenos

It’s mellow because most of my customers don’t want things to be “too spicy”.  It’s vegetarian but doesn’t have a ton of  beans because as I have noted before, I don’t like that many beans.  It works.  There is enough layered spices and different kinds of not so hot peppers to add flavor. Thick and satisfying without being filling.  Garnish it up with whatever you like: shredded cheddar, sour cream, cilantro, avocado, crushed tortilla chips and if you want to add the spice like I do, add a heaping helping of pickled jalapenos.  

Mellow Vegetarian Chili

2 poblano peppers

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium sized onion, chopped

salt and pepper

1 bunch scallions, chopped

1 red pepper, diced

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped mushrooms

3/4 cup black or green olives, chopped

2 tablespoons olive juice

1  14.5 oz. can diced tomotoes

1  4 oz. can mild green chilis

1  32 oz. can tomato puree

1 small can tomato paste

1  15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained

1  12 oz. can lager ( I used Coors Light)

1 cup vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 pinch cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons chili powder

 

Blacken skins of poblano peppers under a broiler or directly on the flame of a gas stove burner.  Place peppers in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let rest for 15 minutes.  Remove and scrape off  charred skin.  Remove stem and seeds from peppers and chop.  Set aside.

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat.  Add garlic and onions.  Season with salt and pepper.  Heat until onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add poblano peppers, scallions, red pepper, carrots and celery.  Continue to cook until red pepper, carrots and celery are crisp/tender.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add mushrooms, olives and olive juice (from jar).  Cook for 5 minutes.  Add all remaining ingredients and stir well to combine.  Bring chili to a boil and reduce heat to low.  Simmer uncovered for one hour.

Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, lime wedges, jalapeno slices or whatever makes you happy.

Vegetable Minestrone with Parsley Parmesan Puree

 

springtime vegetable soup, carrots, white beans, parsley and Parmesan cheese puree on top

Bright orange carrots, a light tomato broth with beans and sausage. All of this topped off with a springtime green parsley and Parmesan cheese puree.  What more could you want other than for the snow to hurry up and melt?

I am sure I can speak for everyone here on Cape Cod,  “If I hear talk of another            “Nor’easter” predicted this month, I am going to scream!”  So, here’s to the arrival of Spring.  At least it says so on the calendar, even if the weather doesn’t want to cooperate!

Vegetable Minestrone with Parsley Parmesan Puree

1 tablespoon olive oil

6 Italian chicken sausages, taken out of the casings

4 medium sized carrots, peeled and sliced

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2  15 oz. cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1  14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes

1  14.5 oz. can tomato puree

4 cups chicken broth

1 Parmesan cheese rind (optional)

salt and pepper

1 medium sized zucchini, chopped

Place a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add olive oil and sausage.  Chop up the sausage with a spoon as it browns, 5-7 minutes.  Add the carrots, celery and onion.  Continue to cook for 5 more minutes until the onion softens.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the garlic, beans, tomatoes, chicken broth and Parmesan rind (if using).  Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes until the carrots begin to soften.  Add the zucchini and heat for 10 more minutes.  Remove Parmesan  rind.  Serve topped with Parsley Parmesan Puree (recipe below) and crusty bread.

Parsley Parmesan Puree

leaves from one large bunch of parsley

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup olive oil

juice from 1/2 lemon

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2-3 dashes Tabasco sauce

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender.  Puree until smooth.  Use as topping for soups or as a vegetable dip.  Can also be eaten by the spoonful.

 

 

Ginger and Spice Butternut Squash Soup with Bread Crust Croutons

Fresh butternut squash

When your mother grows butternut squash in her garden and saves most of them for you, it’s time to find a good way to use them up.  Admittedly, I have never been a big fan of any type of squash.  So, steaming it up and adding salt, pepper and a pat of butter is not my style.  I need to fancy it up a bit.  Preparing it as a soup along with onions, garlic, ridiculous amounts of fresh ginger and adding coconut milk with some other favorite spices allows the squash to be the perfect backdrop in a warm, comforting meal.  I make some croutons to create interest and add some crunch to an otherwise smooth and silky bowl of soup.

butternut squash soup with ginger, coconut milk and Go chu Jong

Ginger and Spice Butternut Squash Soup

2 tablespoons oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

salt and pepper

3 tablespoons grated ginger

2 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1″ pieces

2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)

2 tablespoons go-chu-jang (Korean chili paste) 

zest and juice from one lime

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 teaspoons Sriracha

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 cans cocunut milk

1 handful fresh chopped parsley

For serving: Bread Crust Croutons (see recipe)

Heat oil in a  large pot over medium heat.  Add onion  and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and season with salt and pepper.  Add ginger and butternut squash.  Add chicken stock and turn up heat to bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cover pot for about 15 minutes until squash is tender.  Cool mixture and puree in batches using a blender or immersion blender.  Return mixture to pot.  

Turn heat to medium low and add go-chu-jang, lime zest and juice, cider vinegar, Sriracha, Worcestershire sauce and coconut milk.  Heat until all ingredients are combined.  Taste and adjust seasoning by adding more salt and pepper or hot sauces.  Turn off heat and add parsley.  Serve with Bread Crust Croutons (recipe below).

I save the heels from sandwich bread and stick them in the freezer until I have so many they tumble out onto the floor everytime I open the freezer door. That’s when I make croutons or serve garlic toast as a side to go with dinner.

croutons made out of bread heels with olive oil, salt, pepper and spices

Bread Crust Croutons

1-2 sandwich loaf heels

1 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

garlic powder

dried parsley

Heat oven to broil or use toaster oven, if you have one.  Cut bread into 1″ pieces.  Spread bread pieces on a rimmed baking sheet.  Sprinkle olive oil over bread.  Toss with your hands to coat.  Sprinkle bread with salt, pepper, garlic powder and dried parsley.  Toast in oven until edges brown and bread is crisp, about 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve on soup, salads or by themselves as a snack.