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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyday Bread

no knead bread loaf and bread slice with butter

Along with the soups that I make each week, I also bake up a few loaves of bread.  It sounds far more complicated than it really is.  The bread is a simple recipe that I adapted from Jim Lahey’s book, My Bread .  His recipe is already incredibly easy.  The baking involves preheating a Dutch oven to achieve a crispy crust.  This makes a delicious and incredibly satisfying loaf.  But I wanted to be able to make more than one loaf at a time and in different sizes.  The result is bread with a softer crust and one that yeilds a number of small loaves that you can share or hoard for yourself.  I call it “Everyday Bread” because I eat it every morning toasted with butter and jam and sometimes for lunch with melted ham and cheese.  It’s the perfect vehicle for whatever I can find in my refrigerator.

Timing for bread baking can be tricky when you have a busy schedule.  Since the initial rise for this bread is 12-18 hours, I mix this dough around dinner time the night before I plan to bake it.  Then I form the loaves super early in the morning, allowing for the next (2 hour) rise and 30 minute bake.  If you will not be able to do the second rise and bake in the morning, mix the dough before you go to bed.  The next day, after work, form the loaves, let rise for 2 hours and bake.  Try to make bread baking work even if you have a crazy busy schedule….it’s worth it.

Everyday Bread

(Makes 2 round loaves)

 3 1/2 cups (450 grams) all-purpose flour, plus about 1/2 cup more for forming the loaves

1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon yeast

1 1/2 cups luke warm water

 

Combine 3 1/2 cups (450 grams) flour, sea salt and yeast in a large bowl.  Add water while stirring to create a sticky dough.  ( I use a stiff rubber spatula for this job.) Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and leave in a draft free spot in the kitchen.  Allow dough to rise for 12 to 18 hours.

After the dough has risen, dust your countertop generously with flour (about 1/2 cup).  Using a stiff rubber spatula, scrape the dough onto the floured area.  Flip the dough around gently to cover all of it with flour.  Lightly spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.  Gently cut dough in half with a bench scraper or sharp knife.  Form the two halves of dough into loose rounds without overworking the dough.  Place a few inches apart on the cookie sheet.  Loosely cover with a tea towel and allow to rise again for two hours.

After one and a half hours, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Once the dough has risen for two hours and the oven has preheated for thirty minutes, slash the tops of each loaf two or three times across the top with a sharp knife.  Place the loaves in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the loaves are golden brown.  You can cook them for longer if you like a darker crust and a firmer loaf.  Once the bread is cooked, place the loaves on a cooling rack for at least an hour before slicing.  After the bread is completely cooled, store in plastic bags and eat within 5 days.

 

 

 

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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