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Posts Tagged ‘Barefoot Contessa’

This classic rustic Tuscan tomato soup is called pappa al pomodoro in Italy.  Bright, acidic tomatoes are combined with onions, garlic and basil, thickened with leftover bread and finished off with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano.  It smells heavenly and tastes even better.

I’ve made this soup many times before, but just recently stumbled across a wonderful toasted bread and basil topping to sprinkle over the top.  The topping adds another punch to an already great tasting soup.  Thanks to Ina Garten – I am including the topping too.

I’m just back from a glorious week in Tuscany.  The weather was perfect.  The wine sublime.  The food rustic, simple and delicious.  The villa stunning.  All shared with cherished friends.  About as close to perfect you can get this side of heaven.

Oh…in case anyone is worried the tractor barreling down the lane toward us in this picture stopped just in time.  No  one was injured.  Have you ever tried to photo-shop a tractor out?!?  I’ve decided it adds some “interest” to our picture.

I know if given the opportunity to shop in Italy, most of us would swoon over the fine leather handbags and shoes available in Florence.  However, my passions lie elsewhere:

  Two whole liters of cold pressed extra virgin olive oil bought straight from a charming and delightful heritage farmer.  He let us wander through the grounds of his villa and olive grove.  He proudly explained his organic growing methods and also the artisinal extraction approach he uses involving a centuries old stone wheel which produces hands down the best oil I’ve ever tasted.  Liquid gold.  A little tricky to get back to the states, but well worth it.

I used my newly acquired Italian olive oil to make this batch of soup….oh my it was good!  My post today celebrates all I love about Italy.  Simple food prepared using the freshest ingredients and shared with friends and family.  Wines that compliment and match the flavors of the food.  A little candlelight, a little laughter….perfect.

Tuscan Tomato Soup  pappa al pomodoro

this makes 3-4 servings but can easily be doubled

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

2-3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (try to get an Italian imported tomato like the San Marzano)

2 cups diced rustic Italian bread cubes, about 1 inch each

2 cups chicken stock.

splash of Italian red wine (about 1/4 cup)

freshly grated parmigiano-regianno

For the topping:

another 2 cups of diced rustic Italian bread cubes, about 1 inch each

10-15 fresh basil leaves

sea salt

3-4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

Method

Toss two cups rustic Italian bread cubes with 10-15 fresh basil leaves and layer on a sheet pan.  Drizzle with 3-4 TBSPS extra virgin olive oil.  Sprinkle with coarse sea salt.  Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 20 minutes.

It will look like this when you pull it out.  The basil will get dark but still tastes delicious.  Set aside to sprinkle on the top of the soup right before you serve it.

  Meanwhile heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large pan.  Saute the onions, carrots and garlic for about 10 minutes until tender.

Add the 2 cups diced Italian bread and saute for another 5 minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes, chicken stock and red wine.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook it for 30 minutes.  Stir in freshly grated parmigiano reggiano and sprinkle the toasted bread crumb and basil mixture on top.

    Enjoy!!

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Since starting the blog, my hands down favorite thing is hearing back from people who have enjoyed the posts and are trying new things, inspired and delighted to be in the kitchen.  My friend Sue (who I hope you all visited a couple of weeks ago when I guest-posted at The Desperate Housemommy ) sent me this message on Wednesday:

“I am frizzling capers and measuring anchovy paste by decree of The Barefoot Contessa. Stay tuned!!!”

BooYah!!

My second favorite thing is posting and archiving my all time favorite recipes.  Most evenings, after the house is buttoned down for the night, you can find me curled up perusing the stacks and stacks of cookbooks and magazines which have a tendency accumulate at my house.  (Mr. “One-Click” at Amazon beckons me frequently.)  I am always trying new recipes, but it is pretty rare for me to like something so much I want to make it a second time.  Or tell my friends about it.  I am pretty picky.

Over the years, after trying thousands of different things, I have built a répertoire of “go-to” recipes I make over and over again. These are my “A” player recipes, the ones I count on and always get gobbled up with rave reviews.  Spicy Thai garlic ginger peanut sauce is way at the top of the list.  It’s a recipe circa 2001 from Cooking Light.  I make this all the time.  It is quick, simple and versatile.  It goes great with grilled chicken or beef satay skewers.  I also use the sauce to make hot Peanutty Noodles – click for the link.

I don’t have a deep bench when it comes to Asian/Oriental ingredients in my pantry.  I love, love, love Asian flavors and food, but I tend to go out to restaurants to get my fix rather than cook it at home.  I like this recipe because there is not a long list of asian ingredients or tools you have to go out and buy first before making it.  The recipe does calls for a couple of ingredients you might have to hit the store for: fresh ginger (don’t worry I will show you how) and chili garlic sauce.  Other than that, you should have everything else at home.

Spicy Thai Garlic Ginger Peanut Sauce

inspired from CookingLight magazine

Ingredients

2 tsp fresh grated ginger

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 TBSP olive oli

1 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

1/4 soy sauce

3 TBSP rice vinegar

1 TBSP Chili Garlic Sauce

Method

This is a knob fresh ginger – find it in the produce section next to the bean sprouts and snap peas.

Break off one of the arms and peel it with a vegetable peeler.

Grate the peeled piece of ginger until you accumulate 2 tsp.  Inhale deeply and let the wonderful aroma transport you away.  The unused ginger  can be stored in a baggie and refrigerated.

Saute the fresh ginger and garlic in the olive oil for a quick 30 seconds.

Add the chili garlic sauce.  Here is a picture of the chili garlic sauce.  I get the brand with the rooster on the label.  Another brand easy to find is Lee Kum Kee.

Add the chicken broth, peanut butter, soy sauce and rice vinegar.

Stir until well blended.  Reduce heat and gently simmer for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

It will get thick like this when it is done.  Toss it with hot noodles to make Peanutty Noodles.  Grill chicken or beef skewers and serve with this dipping sauce for satays.  It’s great to make it ahead and refrigerate.  (Let it come to room temperature before you use.)  Let me know if you have more ideas on how to use it!

Enjoy!

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Some certain recipes are so versatile you make them over and over again.  Avocado Salad is one for me.  It is so fresh, crunchy and healthy…plus it tastes incredible.  Today we made it to eat with tortilla chips while we watched the playoff games.  Amazing!  I also use it to top fish tacos or grilled salmon.  This recipe is inspired by The Barefoot Contessa – Ina Garten.  A couple of years ago I surprised each of my girlfriends with a Barefoot Contessa cookbook for Christmas.  They all loved it!  I originally skipped over the Avocado Salad recipe in my cookbook but JoEll saw it, jumped on it and made it for us one night.  I’ve been a fan ever since.  I’ve included the recipe below –  but I encourage you to keep scrolling down to my method pictures and you will see how easy it is to make.  Just pinch me!

Avocado Salad

inspired by The Barefoot Contessa

Ingredients

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

1 each red and orange bell pepper, diced

1/2 cup red onion

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup frozen sweet corn, thawed

2 cloves garlic minced

2 ripe Hass avocados, diced

3 TBSP fresh cilantro (sorry Ina!)

Dressing

Whisk together and pour over salad.  Toss and enjoy!

1/4 freshly squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes) plus lime zest from 1 lime

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

splash white balsamic vinegar

Method

Cut in half one pint grape tomatoes.  The super sweet grape tomatoes are perfect for this recipe because they don’t have a lot of juice or seeds to deal with.

Dice one each orange and yellow bell peppers.  Add the peppers and the diced red onion.

Add one can black beans, drained and rinsed.

Add one jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced.

Add 1 cup frozen corn, thawed.  In the summer I use fresh sweet corn right off the cob.

Add 2 cloves garlic, minced.

Add 2 ripe Hass avocados, diced.

Add the fresh cilantro.  Wash, dry, strip the leaves off the vine and chop.  It should yield about 3 TBSPS.

Dressing Prep:

salt, pepper, olive oil, fresh lime juice and lime zest and a splash of white balsamic vinegar.

Whisked together and poured over salad.

Absolutely scrumptious!  Enjoy!

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