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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orzo, Lemon and Chicken Soup

soup with lemon, eggs, orzo, spinach and lemon

There is something so refreshing about adding lemons to any dish or dessert.  You definitely cannot be sad when eating anything where the lemon shines through.  The tart nature of the fruit forces your mouth to smile and kicks your taste buds into gear.  And what is more comforting than a bowl of chicken noodle soup?  I really cannot think of anything except maybe my mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies, warm from the oven.  Lemon, chicken, noodles and a boost of extra flavor, color and vitamins from some added spinach.  A comforting hug on a cold day.

This recipe has been adapted from one of my favorite soup cookbooks: New England Soup Factory Cookbook by Marjorie Druker and Clara SilversteinCheck out their location in Newton, MA http://newenglandsoupfactory.com/

Orzo, Lemon and Chicken Soup

(Serves about 6)

1 package skinless, boneless chicken thighs

olive oil

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1 tablespoon dried garlic

salt and pepper

10 cups chicken stock

3/4 cup orzo

4 eggs, lightly beaten

zest and juice from 3 lemons

1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

2-3 dashes Tabasco Sauce

2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce

 

  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with tinfoil and lightly spray with cooking oil.  Lay chicken thighs flat on prepared pan.  Rub the tops with a little olive oil.  Sprinkle the dried parsley, garlic and some salt and pepper on each one.  Bake the chicken thighs until cooked through for about 30-40 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cook to room temperature.  Chop chicken into bite size pieces and set aside.

  Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a large stock pot.  Add the orzo and cook for five minutes.  While stirring constantly, drizzle in the eggs and continue stirring for about 30 seconds, until the eggs cook into threads.  Add the lemon zest, juice cooked chicken and spinach.  Season with Tabasco and Worcestershire sauces.  Heat through.  Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if necessary. 

 

White Bean and Hearty Greens Soup

soup with white beans, carrots, kale, mushrooms and chicken sausage

To be honest, I am not a bean lover. I know how good they are for me and that they are a source of low fat protein as well as fiber but somehow, I have never fully embraced them. A small amount of tiny black beans in my chili and a tiny helping of my mother’s Calico Baked Beans recipe at a summer cookout is enough for me. But I keep on trying. And truthfully, I am coming to like them more and more. Especially white beans.

I ran into a friend who recently made the Chicken and White Bean Chili recipe that I posted in December. She was talking about how she needed to add more beans to her diet. But she sounds a little more adventurous than me when it comes to variety. So, here I am offering another soup recipe with white beans but really, if you are up for it, any bean will likely do. So mix it up and substitute the beans if you want. And let me know how it goes. Who knows? Maybe I will add another bean to my list.

White Bean and Hearty Greens Soup

(Serves about 6)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 shallots, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

4-5 Italian chicken sausage

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped mushrooms

1/2 cup white wine

3-4 cups chicken stock

1 15 oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons chopped, fresh rosemary

3 cups chopped kale or any other hearty winter greens such as chard, mustard greens, escarole, etc.

salt and pepper

garnishes: red pepper flakes, parmesan cheese

crusty bread

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add shallots.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook shallots until transparent, about 5 minutes. Remove the sausage meat from the casings and add to the pot.  Break up the meat with a wooden spoon.  Allow sausage meat to brown, only stirring enough to brown all the meat.  Add garlic, carrots and mushrooms.  Cook until the mushrooms just begin to soften, another 5 minutes, or so. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pot to release any cooked on bits.  Reduce slightly, about 5 minutes.  Add chicken stock, beans and rosemary.  Bring soup to a boil and add greens.  Turn down heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes until the carrots are softened and greens are wilted.  Taste soup and add more salt and pepper, if needed.  Serve with garnishes and crusty bread.

 

 

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Thai Carrot Soup with Tahini Swirl

pureed carrot soup with Thai flavors and a swirl of tahini, ginger and lemon dressing

An abundance of grated carrots in my freezer and a craving for sweet, spicy, sour and earthy flavors led me down the path to this recipe. Pureed carrots thickened with rice and seasoned with a hint of fish sauce, warm spices: ginger, cumin and nutmeg and sour notes of lime. To finish it off, I riffed on one of my favorite salad dressings borrowed from Modern Potluck by Kristin Donnelly from her recipe for “Chinese Chicken Salad with Sesame -Ginger Dressing”. (You will not regret purchasing this book as all of the recipes are delicious, easy and useful. So, as soon as you are finished reading this, order your copy!) And yes, I realize that her salad is described as “Chinese” and I am calling my soup, “Thai”. To be honest, in this area, I may not be accurate but I do know what I like. And this carrot soup with Tahini Swirl drizzled on top is a winner.

Thai Carrot Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, chopped fine

1 inch piece of ginger, chopped fine

pinch of salt

2 teaspoons sambal oelek (chili paste)

4 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup white rice

8 large carrots, chopped

1 tablespoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 can coconut milk

juice from 1 lime

1 tablespoon gluten free soy sauce

2 teaspoons fish sauce

For garnish: fresh cilantro, Sriracha sauce, Thahini sauce (see following recipe)

Add olive oil to a large stock pot and heat on medium high. Add onion, garlic, ginger, salt and chili paste. Cook, stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and rice. Bring to a boil.

Add the carrots, cumin and nutmeg. Reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook for about 15 minutes, until carrots and rice are soft. Add the coconut milk. Remove from heat and puree soup with an immersion blender or allow to cool before blending in a regular blender being careful to release the steam. Add the soup back to the pot and add lime juice, soy sauce and fish sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference by adding more salt, lime juice or sambal oelek (chili paste).

Serve with Tahini dressing, Sriracha and cilantro leaves.

Tahini Dressing

(adapted from Modern Potluck by Kristin Donnelly)

1/4 cup lemon juice

3 tablespoons gluten free soy sauce

2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

3 tablespoons tahini

1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated

1/2 to 1 teaspoon chili garlic paste or sambel oelek

3 tablespoons of grapeseed or canola oil

 

Using a whisk, blend all ingredients until smooth. Serve with meats, vegetables or soup. If you would like to use this as a salad dressing, reduce the amount of tahini to 2 teaspoons and increase the oil to 1/2 cup.

 

Lasagna Soup with Fresh Ricotta

creamy tomato soup with lasagana noodles and italian chicken sausage and dollops of ricotta cheese

Who doesn’t love a big hunk of lasagna with melty cheese oozing from its soft pasta layers?  Little chunks of sausage and meatballs hidden among the ricotta and mozzerella waiting to be discovered and dug out like tiny treasures in a red sauce filled landscape flavored by oregano and garlic?

Sadly, devouring all that lasagna goodness requires unbuttoning one’s pants and taking a long winter nap followed by a guilt filled morning and a long, joyless trip to the gym.  Is it really worth it?

My longing for all that is craveworthy about lasagna and my desire not to feel guilty or gluttonous about consuming such a rich meal has led me to search out viable alternatives.  I  will be honest.  I was skeptical at first about this soup recipe that I was finally able to find on the food network website.  How could one recreate the flavors, decadent feeling and tastes in a soup that is far less caloric than its inspiration?  I decided it was worth a try.

As you have probably already suspected, this soup recipe delivers on all counts: melty cheese from the fresh ricotta dollops, creamy and tomatoey sauce, chunky noodles and bits of Italian spiced meat.  If you are feeling extra hungry, make some garlic bread to dip in your bowl.  This soup makes a comforting and somewhat guilt free meal.

I changed up some parts of the recipe but included the link to the original if you want to check it out.  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/lasagna-soup-2268968. The recipe for the Ricotta cheese is a combination of a few from my research mixed up with my memory of a recipe that I once had from a friend of mine.  Unfortunately, I cannot find my original copy but I think I came pretty close in recreating it.  Make the Ricotta a day or a few hours in advance.

 

Lasagana Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium sized onion, chopped

2 sweet Italian sausages, casings removed

2 hot Italian sausages, casings removed

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons tomato paste

4 cups chicken broth

1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1/2 cup chopped basil

1 Parmesan rind or /13 cup grated parmesan cheese

8 oz. lasagna noodles, broken into pieces (about 10 noodles)

1/4 cup whole milk

Ricotta cheese (see following recipe)

optional: red pepper flakes and extra basil for garnish

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring until onions soften, about 4 minutes.  Add the sausage, garlic and oregano.  Cook, stirring and breaking up the sausage with a spoon until the sausage is browned and cooked through.  Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring until darkened, about 2 minutes.

Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, Parmesan rind ( wait to add the cheese, if using grated) and 1 cup water, cover and bring to a simmer.  Uncover and cook until slightly reduced , about 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, boil water in a large pot and add the lasagna noodles.  Cook according to package directions.  Drain and add to soup.  Add milk, parmesan (if using grated) and basil.  Simmer for about 1 minute.  Divide the soup among bowls and top with small dollops of Ricotta cheese.

ricotta cheese curds

 

Ricotta Cheese

8 cups whole milk ( I use Garelick brand)

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

 

Line a large strainer with 4 layers of cheese cloth being sure that it hangs over the sides about an inch or two.  Place the strainer over a large bowl.

In a large, heavy pot slowly bring milk, cream and salt to a rolling boil.  Stir it occasionally to prevent scorching.  Add the lemon juice, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring continuously, until the mixture curdles.  This takes about 2 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the curds and place them in the strainer lined with cheese cloth.  Let the cheese drain for at least and hour.  Use the cheese immediately or place it in a covered container in the refrigerator.  It will keep for about 2 days.  

*You can use the liquid from the cheese, called whey in all types of ways.  It’s protein rich.  Use it in smoothies and bread recipes instead of milk or water.

**This cheese tastes delicious when served with salty crackers and topped with honey.

Chicken and White Bean Chili with Green Onion and Parmesan Crostini

White bean chili with chicken sausage and parmesan crostini

If you are looking for a hearty soup that is not too heavy, this one is the perfect solution to your problem.  Browned ground chicken and onions with all the spices you love in a good, stick to your ribs chili.  Cannellini beans and Swiss chard give this soup and Italian twist.  Top it off with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.  An untraditional crostini with green onions, chive, cream cheese and more Parmesan bring it all together into a satisfying meal.

The first time I made this was in 2012 when I saw an episode of Giada De Laurentiiis’ cooking show on the Food Network at that time.  She also served it with a crostini but I cannot seem to find that recipe, so I had to riff on it, instead.  Everytime I make this easy to put together soup and bread combination, I get rave reviews.  I should take this one out more often!

Chicken and White Bean Chili

(serves about 6)

(adapted from White Bean and Chicken Chili by Giada De Laurentiis, 2012)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 pounds ground chicken or turkey or a combination

1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon dried oregano

3 teaspoons chili powder

3 tablepsoons flour

2 (15 oz. cans) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 bunch (about 1 pound) swiss chard, stems removed, chopped to 1 inch pieces

1 1/2 cups frozen corn

4 cups chicken broth

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

black pepper

Parmesan cheese

chopped parsley

In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat.  Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds.  Add the ground meat, 1 teaspoon salt, cumin, oregano, and chili powder.  Cook, stirring frequently until the meat is browned and cooked through about 8-10 minutes.  Stir the flour into the meat mixture.  Add the beans, Swiss chard, corn and chicken stock.  Bring mixture to a simmer, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.  Simmer for about 50-60 minutes until liquid reduces and the chili is thickened.  Add the red pepper flakes, taste for seasoning and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Serve with Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Green Onion and Parmesan Crostini

1 (8 oz block) cream cheese, softened

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

4 green onions, diced

2 tablespoons chopped chives

12 slices baguette, on the diagonal for more surface area

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat boiler in oven.  In a small bowl, mix cream cheese, salt, pepper, green onions and chives.  Spread mixture on one side of each slice of bread.  Place bread on a cookie sheet.  Sprinkle each slice with Parmesan cheese, making sure it adheres to cream cheese mixture.  Broil bread slices for 2-4 minutes until cheese melts and turns brown on edges.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.