Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Is it a pasta dish or a soup?

I think it is a little of column A and a little of column B as they say. I really love Italian bean soups like minestrone, pasta e fagioli, Tuscan white bean soup, etc...
But unfortunately my significant other is allergic to most white beans. Thankfully, he is not allergic to garbanzo beans/chickpeas. I pulled out a recipe from the Jamie's Italy book, first time using this book but it is very nice to look at. I sometimes like Jamie Oliver, but his show is really like trying to watch MTV with the jumpy editing. Anyhow, I decided to try pasta e ceci from said book.
Along with a fresh loaf of bread that I forgot to slash the top of prior to baking - a very crispy crust and fairly custardy crumb, so not a total disaster.
This was a pretty easy soup to make, especially since canned beans were allowed here. Just a bit of onion, garlic, celery, olive oil, and rosemary from the garden get sweated for a while on low heat. Then the beans are covered with some chicken/turkey stock and cooked a bit. I removed about half of the beans from the pot before blending with my stick blender, then re-added the beans and some salad macaroni (ditalini if you want to be fancy schmancy) & simmered until the pasta was done. This soup needs lots of seasoning, beans love salt. A little drizzle of oil over the top to finish, it was really nice. I think I will be revisiting this one before the "winter" is over.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


This week brought a repeat of my Best Soup Ever, broccoli and rice soup. It was welcome after this home-made macaroni and cheese which we ate Friday and Sunday for dinner.

I also discovered that not only plain boules and baguettes (and the ugly Pain d'Epi I made) can be made from the stored basic dough from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, but I can also put together a nice foccacia. This was great all by itself with olive oil, as well as the 2nd loaf with pasta & marinara sauce.

Lots of repeats and instant food this week, but looking to do something a bit different for soup night next Monday. Maybe Thai or Chinese style...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thursday Night Cocktail Snack

I thought I might throw out this simple hors d'oeuvre to keep with TNS First Thursday theme. This is my first time participating in this, I really wanted to do something different and adventurous. Well, then I remembered that this week is parent-teacher conference week, and Thursday was the designated "No Students" day, so I had a kid around the house who needed to type up his world explorers research project (Sir Walter Raleigh). Add to that the need to get to the store, and the quest for clear report covers (yay Staples!). That sort of put a damper on my hope for a really cool snack to go with an expertly made Manhattan.
Enter my notebooks full of clipped recipes that I never seem to make. I have them sorted, so went to the apps section and found this beauty from a 2006 Sunset Magazine (no, I'm not old, I just like Sunset). Garlic stuffed mushrooms, what's not to like? I bought some "stuffing mushrooms" at Trader Joe's which seem to be about halfway between a good portobello shroom and the little creminis. Worked great, they had really short stems, so there was not too much waste. Oh, and I only made a half batch because I was low on panko and TJ's seems to have discontinued theirs again. I love this because it is pretty much pantry ingredients - garlic (a LOT), cream, salt, panko and mushrooms. I cooked the garlic in the cream for about an hour until it got soft enough, then just mixed in the panko, stuffed the mushrooms and popped them in the oven.
Wow, these were really good! For the vast amount of garlic used, they were not strong at all, but very sweet and mellow. I would definitely make these again, they are less greasy than the usual sausage stuffed mushrooms. I wouldn't say healthier.. the heavy cream and all. And went well with the expertly prepared Manhattans.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A good Tofu recipe from Cooking Light

Flipping through a Cooking Light this weekend, I found an interesting recipe for Tofu with Red Pepper-Walnut sauce and thought I would give it a whirl. It had romesco (red pepper-walnut sauce) and panko fried tofu, what wasn't to love?
It was pretty simple too, although I took some liberties with the herbs. I hate buying basil, and more so in December as it just seems all wrong. I do have parsley, oregano and thyme growing in my garden, so I used those to make up the required herbs for the marinade.
The panko breading of course makes all things better. I must admit I did use just a bit more olive oil than the CL recipe called for, but sheesh how can you effectively brown in only 2 teaspoons of oil!!

The sauce was the winner here, thanks again to the immersion blender for making less cleanup - the leftover marinade, a jar of roasted red peppers, and a couple tablespoons of toasted walnut pieces. Lots of leftover sauce for bread tomorrow - hooray!!

This got a big thumbs up from the guys!

Lookie, I made Pain d'Epi!!

Not bad for the first try, not too retarded.

I'm sure that I made a French woman cry with this though, hehe.

Soup with a side of snark....

This week's installment of Soup Night comes courtesy of our favorite snark-master, Anthony Bourdain. Here's the recipe posted on Serious Eats, but I can highly recommend the Les Halles cookbook for many many things.
I didn't find a problem with the cooking time, and it is really simple as it gets - sweat a sliced onion. Add some mushrooms (12 oz). Don't brown the onions, but cook a bit more. Then add 4 cups of chicken stock and a sprig of parsley. Then just simmer this for an hour, then blend. Thank you, immersion blender for giving me 1 less thing to clean every time I make soup!!
I must admit that after blending I did add a swirl of cream, and probably added less sherry than called for, but the result was still spectacular.

I baked a quick loaf of bread early in the day, which I sliced up and slathered with garlic and olive oil. I grated some real-deal Parmesan on top - normally I buy Grana Padano but WF didn't have any so I splurged. At least it lasts a long time.

What a great Monday night meal, especially after the carb fest that was the holiday weekend.

How to get kids to eat cabbage!!

I love cabbage, and it's cheap and healthy. I made this braised cabbage, inspired by both the Amateur Gourmet and the same book that he has, Molly's braising book. I left out the carrots but kept the onions in. I was also a bit liberal with the crushed red pepper. It is so simple, just a bit of stock and some onions, along with seasonings, and in the oven it goes. I have served this twice now, this time I put some heat-n-eat turkey kielbasa on top of the cabbage for the last 20 minutes (after the foil comes off) . I'll stick to the first version I did a few weeks ago though: I cooked up some "Lincolnshire" sausages from the Tesco Fresh & Easy, a much better choice. Turkey kielbasa is just so meh. Not enough fat, which is what sausages are all about. Note to self: I have a grinder, need to get busy and use it!! 2nd note - the turkey kielbasa looks bad in this photo, doesn't it?

The cabbages come out all tender and melty, I just can't get enough. I had leftovers but as usual forgot all about them until they were past their prime. This is a "heavy rotation" meal, it's so simple and fits the "cheap ass" (thank you Thursday Night Smackdown) mold.