Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tortellini Sausage Soup

Yes, another soup recipe! Its that time of year! This soup was an unplanned dinner. I found myself without anything defrosted and not knowing what to make for dinner. I looked in the pantry and found I had tortellini and was thinking of incorporating it in some sort of soup when I remembered this recipe from Our Best Bites. I just recently found this site and they have some really fantastic looking recipes. As luck would have it, I had almost everything I needed to make this tortellini sausage soup, including the sausage which is easy to defrost! This was a wonderfully hearty and filling soup. It was a unanimous hit in our house. It makes just enough for dinner and then some leftovers which is perfect. I didn't have zucchini so I added some organic frozen chopped spinach. I paired this with mozzarella grilled cheese sandwiches. It was a perfect dinner to lead in to watching Its the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown with our three year old.

Tortellini Sausage Soup

3 links Italian sausage
4 cloves pressed garlic
1 onion, diced
½ c. water
2 cans chicken broth
½ c. apple cider
1 16-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 c. sliced carrots
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 medium zucchini, grated (great way to use your food processor if you have one) (I used organic frozen spinach instead)
8-10 oz. package cheese tortellini
2 Tbsp. dried parsley

If you're using link sausage, remove the casings and crumble into a large soup pot. To remove the casings, you can use a sharp knife to cut a slit down one side of the sausage and then peel back the casing. And just so you know, both Sara and I have tried taking pictures of this method and there is no G-rated way of posting those pictures...

Begin cooking sausage over medium heat, stirring frequently. If your sausage is pretty fatty, you'll want to drain it when it's about halfway cooked. Meanwhile, chop onions and garlic and add to the sausage. Continue cooking until onions are translucent and your sausage is cooked. Your house will smell heavenly.

Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, juice, water, chicken broth, carrots, oregano, and basil. Cover and simmer for 1/2 hour. Add parsley and zucchini and simmer for another 15 minutes or so. Add the tortellini and cook until tender, and then serve with bread and freshly-grated Parmesan.
Source: Our Best Bites

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Barefoot Blogger's-Cheddar Corn Chowder-

Jill of My Next Life picked Ina's Cheddar Corn Chowder as the second Barefoot Blogger pick for October. I previously made and blogged about this recipe here. I did go ahead and remake the recipe since it was a great pick for the weather we are having. One thing I found that I hadn't remembered is that this soup really tastes better the second day so its a good one to make ahead. This time I also halved the recipe and I still had enough to eat for leftovers and freeze. This one hits the spot on a cold and rainy day. I recently watched Ina make a similar version that adds lobster. I'll have to try that one soon, sounds very decadent!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Barefoot Blogger's Blue Cheese Souffle

I was happy to see that Summer of Sexy Apartment chose this recipe as one of the October Barefoot Blogger picks. I've made dessert souffles but never a savory souffle. My husband and I recently enjoyed a lovely dinner at a local souffle bistro. The only bad thing about a savory souffle for dinner is it leaves no room for a dessert souffle! This recipe seemed a fun way to try to recreate that meal at home. I don't find souffles terribly difficult to make, they just require patience and a gentle hand. This one puffed up beautifully and looked delicious. Be warned if you make this though, it needs to be served immediately. My souffle deflated less than 5 minutes after I took it out of the oven. Although, I am a blue cheese lover, the flavor was overwhelming to me in the recipe. I would consider making another cheese souffle but would likely use a milder cheese. A Gruyere or fontina would probably be a better choice.

Blue Cheese Souffle

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the dish
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup scalded milk
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 4 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 3 ounces good Roquefort cheese, chopped
  • 5 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Butter the inside of an 8-cup souffle dish (7 1/2 inches in diameter and 3 1/4 inches deep) and sprinkle evenly with Parmesan.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the hot milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, the cayenne, and nutmeg. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, until smooth and thick.

Off the heat, while still hot, whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time. Stir in the Roquefort and the 1/4 cup of Parmesan and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Put the egg whites, cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on low speed for 1 minute, on medium speed for 1 minute, then finally on high speed until they form firm, glossy peaks.

Whisk 1/4 of the egg whites into the cheese sauce to lighten and then fold in the rest. Pour into the souffle dish, then smooth the top. Draw a large circle on top with the spatula to help the souffle rise evenly, and place in the middle of the oven. Turn the temperature down to 375 degrees F. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (don't peek!) until puffed and brown. Serve immediately.

Source: Barefoot in Paris, Clarkson Potter, 2004.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

White Chocolate Gingerbread Blondies

When I purchased the Martha Stewart Cookies Cookbook, this was one of the first recipes that caught my eye. Now that we are enjoying lots of fall weather it seemed a perfect time to try this one. This recipe makes a lot so its a good one for a crowd. I served these at our weekly play date and they were a hit. I found the ends on mine were a little too crispy so I just cut those pieces off. These have a nice spicy gingerbread taste which is balanced nicely with the sweetness of the white chocolate. These are a perfect fall treat. They would be a fantastic finish for a dinner with a spicy bowl of chili or as a compliment to homemade hot chocolate.

White Chocolate Gingerbread Blondies

Makes about 4 dozen 2-inch squares

  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray
  • 2 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 1/2 sticks (20 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 10 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used white chocolate chips)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 17-by-12-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment cut to fit, and coat parchment. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.
  2. Beat butter and brown and granulated sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs and yolk, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Stir in white chocolate.
  3. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake until edges are golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 2-inch squares or desired shape. Blondies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Source: Martha Stewart's Cookies, Clarkson Potter, 2008.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Provencal Vegetable Soup

I made this soup a few weeks ago on a cold and rainy day and it really hit the spot. I loved the addition of the saffron to the soup and the fresh tomato basil pistou adds a lovely brightness to the soup. To me it was an upscale version of the classic tomato vegetable soup. We really loved this one. I will definitely be making it again.

Provencal Vegetable Soup
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 to 4 leeks)
  • 3 cups 1/2-inch-diced unpeeled boiling potatoes (1 pound)
  • 3 cups 1/2-inch-diced carrots (1 pound)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 quarts homemade chicken stock or canned broth
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1/2 pound haricots verts, ends removed and cut in 1/2
  • 4 ounces spaghetti, broken in pieces
  • 1 cup Pistou, recipe follows
  • Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot, add the onions, and saute over low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the leeks, potatoes, carrots, salt, and pepper and saute over medium heat for another 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and saffron, bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender. Add the haricots verts and spaghetti, bring to a simmer, and cook for 15 more minutes.

To serve, whisk 1/4 cup of the pistou into the hot soup, then season to taste. Depending on the saltiness of your chicken stock, you may need to add up to another tablespoon of salt. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and more pistou.


4 large garlic cloves

1/4 cup tomato paste

24 large basil leaves

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1/2 cup good olive oil

Place the garlic, tomato paste, basil, and Parmesan in the bowl of a food processor and puree. With the motor running, slowly pour the olive oil down the feed tube to make a paste. Pack into a container, pour a film of olive oil on top, and close the lid.

Yield: 1 cup

Source: Ina Garten, Barefoot in Paris, Clarkson Potter, 2005.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Creamy Pumpkin Custard wtih Golden Raisin Compote

I absolutely love pumpkin. I was a bit worried when I found out there was a canned pumpkin shortage this year. I went to several area groceries and lo and behold there was no pumpkin to be found. I couldn't conceive of a fall without all my favorite pumpkin recipes and several new ones I want to try. Luckily, I happened upon a store with a healthy supply of canned pumpkin and my pantry is now well stocked! Yes, I bought 10 cans of pumpkin! I decided this recipe was a worthy source for one of my precious cans of pumpkin and it did not disappoint. Although labeled a custard, it was reminiscent of pumpkin cheesecake. This dessert is very rich and decadent. The golden raisin compote adds nice texture and flavor. The only change I would make next time is to add some candied pecans. I just couldn't help thinking a little crunch would have been a nice addition. This is the first recipe I have tried from the Dolce Italiano cookbook and if this recipe is any indication of how great the recipes are, I can't wait to try more. The perfect ending to a fabulous fall meal.

Creamy Pumpkin Custard wtih Golden Raisin Compote

Makes 6 servings

¼ cup granulated sugar, plus more for dusting the ramekins
2 pieces crystallized ginger (about 1 ounce), minced
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon yogurt or sour cream
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup canned pumpkin (straight up pumpkin, without the pumpkin pie spices)
Golden Raisin Compote (recipe follows), for garnish

Preheat the oven to 325 F and position a rack in the center. Grease six 4-ounce ramekins or custard cups with nonstick cooking spray, then coat the bottoms and sides with a light dusting of granulated sugar, shaking out the excess. Have ready a flat-bottomed roasting pan large enough to accommodate the ramekins with ¾ inch of space in between them.

Place the granulated sugar and crystallized ginger in the bowl of a food processor and process until the ginger is finely ground. Place the mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and add the cream cheese and light brown sugar. Cream the ingredients together on medium speed until smooth and lump-free, about 2 minutes. Beat in the yogurt or sour cream, followed by the egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and salt, then beat in the pumpkin puree until just combined.

Divide the mixture among the ramekins, filling them ¾ full and tapping each one once or twice on the counter to even the top. Place the ramekins in the roasting pan and add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil, tenting it slightly so the foil does not touch the top of the ramekins.

Carefully place the pan in the oven and bake the custards for 25 minutes, then rotate the pan to ensure even baking. Bake them for another 15 minutes and then check for doneness; the custards should appear slightly puffy and their surfaces should be matte. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the custards to cool for 10 minutes, then remove them from the bain-marie and chill until firm, at least 4 hours.

To serve, run the tip of a knife around the edge of each custard and flip it on to a serving plate. Top each serving with a spoon full of golden raisin compote.

Golden Raisin Compote

Makes about 1 ½ cups

1 heaping cup of raisins
¾ cup juice from fresh oranges
¼ cup golden or dark rum
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Place the raisins, orange juice, rum, and sugar in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Simmer until the raisins are soft and plump, then pour the liquid through a sieve and strain out the raisins and place them in a small bowl. Return the liquid to the pan and continue simmering until it is syrupy and reduced to about ½ cup. Remove the pan and from the heat and whisk in the butter. Combine the sauce with the raisins and cool to room temperature.

Source: Gina De Palma, Dolce Italiano, 2007.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cooking Italy-Sliced Potatoes with Mushrooms

This pick from the Cooking Italy group was the perfect accompaniment to the Pan Roasted Lamb with Juniper Berries I served as part of my dinner party menu. This dish would really go well with most meat dishes. I love how perfectly tender the potatoes came out. I had trouble finding dried porcini so I ended up using a dried mushroom mix which had porcini in it. This dish has lots of flavor and was fairly simple to assemble. I liked the technique for cooking the potatoes so much I would consider making it without the mushroom as well and possibly changing up the herb combinations to suit the dish I was making. I know others in the group had issues with the cooking time but mine cooked fine in the time specified in the recipe. I used Yukon gold potatoes so I'm not sure if that made the difference.

Sliced Potatoes Baked with Porcini and Fresh Cultivated Mushrooms, Riveria Style

A small packet or 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted
The filtered water from the mushroom soak
1 pound small new, waxy boiling potatoes
1/2 pound fresh, firm white button or cremini mushrooms
An oven to table baking dish no larger than 11 inches by 7 inches or its equivalent
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic chopped, very fine
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill

1. Put the reconstituted mushrooms and their filtered water into a small saucepan, turn on the heat to medium high and cook until all the liquid has boiled away. Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 400.

3. Peel the potatoes, wash them in cold water, and cut them in 1/4 inch slices.

4. Slice off and discard a think disk from the butt end of the fresh mushroom's stem without detaching the stem from the cap. Wash the mushrooms rapidly in cold running water, taking care no to let them soak. Pat gently, but thoroughly dry with a soft cloth towel. Cut them lengthwise into slices the same thickness as the potatoes, keeping the stems and caps together.

5. Choose a baking dish which all ingredients will fit without being stacked any higher than 1 1/2 inches. Put the olive oil, garlic, potatoes, the porcini and the sliced, fresh mushrooms, parsley and several grindings of pepper. Toss several times to mix the ingredients evenly, and level them off with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Place the dish on the uppermost rack of the preheated oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then add salt, toss to distribute it well, return the dish to the oven and continue baking until the potatoes are tender, approximately another 15 minutes.

6. After taking the dish out of the oven. let it settle for a few minutes before bringing it to the table. If you find there is more oil in the dish than you would like, spoon away the excess before serving.
Source: Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1992.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cooking Italy-Pan Roasted Lamb with Juniper Berries

This was my first recipe from the new blogging group I joined, Cooking Italy. This recipe really took me out of my comfort zone. I have never cooked lamb and I've only eaten it once very recently. I had lamb chops at a Greek restaurant and was surprised at how much I liked it and how it really tasted much like steak. This recipe gave me another opportunity to use my new dutch oven and a jar of juniper berries I purchased awhile back. It really couldn't have been a simpler dish to make, throw all the ingredients in the pot and cook. I think I over cooked mine a bit. It was probably done closer to the three 2 1/2 to 3 hour mark. It was still delicious and tender although a little dry. This dish has rich depth of flavor and is definitely one I would make again. I couldn't find lamb shoulder but the butcher at Whole Foods helped me pick out bone-in lamb chops which he also cut into pieces as instructed by the recipe. Angela, the creator of Cooking Italy paired the lamb dish perfectly with Marcella's Sliced Potatoes Baked with Porcini and Fresh Cultivated Mushrooms, Riveria Style. A very rustic and earthy pairing and a perfect way to enjoy a fall dinner. Here is a link to my full dinner party menu.

Pan Roasted Lamb with Juniper Berries

2 1/2 pounds lamb shoulder, cut into 3-4 inch pieces, with the bone in.
1 tablespoon chopped carrot
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 tablespoon chopped celery
1 cup dry white wine
2 garlic cloves, mashed lightly with a knife handle, the skin removed
A sprig of fresh rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons lightly crushed, juniper berries
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill

1. Choose a heavy-bottomed or enameled cast-iron pot that will contain all the ingredients. Put all the ingredients in to it, cover the pot, and turn the heat on to medium low. Turn the lamb pieces over about twice an hour.

2. After 2 hours, the ingredients should have shed a considerable amount of juice. Set the pot's cover on slightly ajar, and continue cooking at slightly higher heat. Turn the meat from time to time. Ager an hour and a half more, the lamb should feel tender when prodded with a fork. If there is still too much liquid in the pot, uncover, raise the heat and reduce it to a less runny consistency. Taste the meat and correct for salt.

3. Tip the pot and spoon off as much of the liquified lamb fat as you can. Transfer the entire contents of the pot to a warm platter and serve at once.

Source: Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1992.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mixed Greens with Roasted Pears and Blue Cheese

This may just be my new favorite salad! Classic Ina, this was so simple to make and yet so amazingly delicious. The pears smelled fabulous while baking. This dish is quintessential fall on a plate and makes a very elegant presentation. I substituted red wine for the port.

Mixed Greens with Roasted Pears and Blue Cheese
  • 3 ripe but firm Anjou pears
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
  • 3 ounces coarsely crumbled sharp blue cheese such as Stilton
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup walnut halves, toasted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 3 tablespoons port
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 6 ounces baby arugula
  • Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Peel the pears and slice them lengthwise into halves. With a small sharp paring knife and a melon baller, remove the core and seeds from each pear, leaving a round well for the filling. Trim a small slice away from the rounded sides of each pear half so that they will sit in the baking dish without wobbling. Toss the pears with some lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown. Arrange them, core side up, in a baking dish large enough to hold the pears snugly.

Gently toss the crumbled blue cheese, dried cranberries, and walnuts together in a small bowl. Divide the mixture among the pears, mounding it on top of the indentation.

In the same small bowl, combine the apple cider, port, and brown sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour the mixture over and around the pears. Bake the pears, basting occasionally with the cider mixture, for 30 minutes, or until tender. Set aside until warm or at room temperature.

Just before serving, whisk together the olive oil, 1/4 cup of lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of the basting liquid in a large bowl. Divide the arugula among 6 plates and top each with a pear half. Drizzle each pear with some of the basting liquid, sprinkle with salt, and serve warm.

Source: Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home, Clarkson Potter, 2006.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fall Dinner Party and New Blogging Group!

Fall is my favorite time of year to throw dinner parties. I love putting together rustic meals using all the beautiful fall colors in the ingredients to inspire me! This menu came about largely due to the new blogging group I joined, Cooking Italy. The group is dedicated to cooking through Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I've restrained myself from joining several other blogging groups but couldn't resist this one. Being half Italian I really love learning about Italian cooking and couldn't resist jumping at the opportunity to learn more traditional dishes and challenge myself with recipes that have a greater degree of difficulty. The picks for this month looked fabulous so I purchased the book and set about designing this menu using the lamb and potato dishes from the Cooking Italy group. I will be posting the recipes for this menu and reviews of these recipes over the next week.

Mixed Greens with Roasted Pears and Blue Cheese
Pan Roasted Lamb with Juniper Berries
Sliced Potatoes Baked with Porcini and Fresh Cultivated Mushrooms Riviera Style
Semolina Bread
Pumpkin Custards with Golden Raisin Compote

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Classic Chicken Jambalaya

We have been so busy the last week with all the birthday celebrations at our house. I think we are finally at a point of cake overload! My birthday and my son's birthday are only a few days apart which is fun but makes for a hectic week! I got this beautiful new dutch oven for my birthday and have been waiting to use it. More rainy cold weather here yesterday meant the perfect day to break it in. I've had this jambalaya recipe flagged for a while and it seemed fitting for my first recipe in the new pot and the gloomy weather. My husband loves Cajun food and is a big fan of my gumbo so I knew this would be right up his alley! Sure enough, he loved it! This recipe takes a bit of prep work with chopping and cooking on the stove but once you get it in the oven its good to go. I ended up with extra ham and thyme leftover from this recipe so I'm looking forward to making Emeril's creamy ham and potato pie in the next few days! I love it when a good plan for leftovers comes together!

Other Cajun Favorites:
Chicken Andouille Gumbo
Slow Cooker Red Beans with Andouille Sausage
King Cake
Classic Chicken Jambalaya

Makes 6 to 8 servings

One 3 1/2-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Emeril's Original Essence (I used the cajun seasoning I already had)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped green bell peppers
1 cup chopped onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 pound andouille sausage, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 pound boneless smoked ham, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 cups rice
2 cups Chicken Stock, or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup canned whole tomatoes, drained and crushed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Emeril's Kick It Up! Red Pepper Sauce, or other hot sauce, plus more for serving
4 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons finely sliced green onions, for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
  2. Season the chicken with 2 tablespoons Essence and the salt.
  3. Heat the oil in a small Dutch oven or heavy lidded pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned on all sides, working in batches if necessary, 8 to 10 minutes per batch.
  4. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Add the celery, bell peppers, and onions and cook until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
  6. Add the sausage and ham and cook for another 2 minutes.
  7. Add the rice, stir to blend, and cook for another 2 minutes.
  8. Add the Chicken Stock, tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire, the remaining 1 teaspoon Essence, the pepper sauce, bay leaves, and thyme. Stir to combine and return the chicken to the pot, nestling the pieces in the rice mixture.
  9. Cover the pot and bake until the chicken and rice are tender, about 40 minutes.
  10. Remove from the oven and let stand, still covered, for 5 minutes. Garnish with the green onions and serve with hot sauce.
Source: Emeril Lagasse as Featured in Holiday Cooking with Top American Chefs.