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Posts Tagged ‘garlic’

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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Quinoa has a hot ticket in the culinary world as of late.  It’s a gluten free, versatile and nutty tasting grain touted as one of the best complete sources of protein out there.  Plus it tastes delicious.  It’s quick and easy to prepare.  It’s great in soup and salads or by itself as a side dish.  Now be honest – how many of you out there know how to pronounce:

Q_U_I_N_O_A?

If you said “KEEN-Wah”, you are correct.

Second only to cooking I love to read.  A lot.  While deeply engrossed in a book, I rarely take the time to stop and look up the pronunciation and definition of any unfamiliar word I stumble across.  Just sound it out and contextualize it, then I’m good to go.  Over the years this has bitten me in the behind a few times.

Here’s how it works when I am with my sister (she communicates for a living and is much more adept at correct pronunciations):

1.  I confidently interject my new found vocab word into our conversation, very impressed with myself.

2.  In reply, my sister coyly uses the same word in her answer – except pronounced correctly.

3.  I get the hint.

Some of the recent culprits: segue, potpourri, omnipotent.  You get the picture.

That’s why my friend JoEll and I were cracking each other up a few weeks back because we both thought the way you pronounced  Quinoa was:

“QUIN-oh-na”

so it rhymes with Winona (as in Ryder or Minnesota).

We had seen the ingredient written in recipes about 100 times and didn’t know it was the same ingredient we had heard pronounced “KEEN-Wah” about 100 times.  What a revelation when we realized it was the same thing!  Silly us. So today you get a recipe…..and a vocab lesson all in one.

Quinoa Salad

inspired by my friend JoEll

Ingredients

1 cup dry quinoa

2 cups chicken broth

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1 bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 cup grape tomatoes

2-3 TBSP chopped fresh chives

2-3 TBSP chopped fresh basil

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Method

You can find Quinoa at most supermarkets now in the rice and grains section

This is what it looks like right out of the box.

This is what it looks like once it is cooked.  To cook it bring 2 cups of chicken broth to a boil.  Add 1 cup quinoa and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover and simmer until all liquid is gone, about 10-15 minutes.  Fluff with a fork and cool.

Make a quick dressing by whisking together 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice and 1/3 cup olive oil until it emulsifies.  Add the dressing to the cooked and cooled Quinoa.

Today I tossed bell pepper, grape tomatoes, basil, chives, garlic and feta cheese into the Quinoa salad.  But really….use your imagination.  Anything fresh and tasty will do.

This is great as a side dish or throw in some grilled chicken or fish for a complete meal.  Enjoy!!

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I originally got this Mozzarella Basil Tart recipe from my wonderful friend Michele years and years ago.  I love how it uses all the ingredients that are so fresh and tasty this time of the year.  It’s relatively simple to make, very versatile and tastes so fresh and wholesome.  I serve it either as an appetizer or side dish and often make it for breakfast (kinda like an egg-less quiche).  I couldn’t wait until the right opportunity came along to compose a post about one of my favorite recipes.

Some blog posts just burst out of me.  Some meander, lily-pad, noodle and wiggle their way out.  This one definitely would be the latter.  I’ve always said food is so much better with the stories, so here we go.

So…..my hubbie had business meetings in London on the Fourth of July this year.  Ughhh.  Yes dear, I do understand the Fourth of July is obviously not celebrated in England and it’s business as usual across the pond.  I did a great job keeping busy and occupied all weekend but had zippo plans on the 4th.  In lieu of a major pity party, I decided retail therapy was the answer.

I came across these great lime green place mats with a graphic print.  I’ve been completely obsessed with lime green and graphic prints lately so I had to snatch them up!  I knew the tart would look perfect with the place mats for a blog post – bright, crisp and clean.  I whipped up the tart, took my pictures and …..sigh, thought about the lonesome evening ahead.  No one to share my tart with.  I was completely delighted when an invitation to an impromptu neighborhood back yard cook-out came along.   (Thanks S&R!!)  I whisked my tart over and it was enjoyed by all.

Mozzarella Basil Tart

Ingredients

1 refrigerated pie crust

4-6 fresh Roma tomatoes

2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

1 cup loosely packed basil, chopped

2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

1/8 tsp white pepper

Method

I really think the key to the success of this dish is extracting some of the liquid from the Roma tomatoes before you start.  I just slice them thin, spread them out on paper towels and sprinkle them with salt (this helps draw out the moisture).  In about ten or fifteen minutes they are ready to go.  I’ve tried to skip this step and the moisture from the tomatoes makes the tart kind of soggy, so it’s definitely worth it to take the time to drain the tomatoes if you can.

I’ve made this tart many, many times with a thawed out, frozen pie crust shell still in it’s flimsy, tin foil pan and it tastes great.  I’ve also made this tart many, many times with my Mom’s made-from-scratch pie dough recipe and it tastes really great.  Today I am using a refrigerated pie dough sheet (the rolled up kind) and my adorable tart pan from Williams & Sonoma.  I rolled out the refrigerated pie dough sheet, draped it over the tart pan and then rolled the pin across the top of the pan to cut and remove the excess dough.

       Mix 1 cup of the grated mozzarella cheese, mayonnaise, grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese and white pepper in a bowl.  Set aside.

Layer the remaining cup of grated mozzarella cheese in the pie crust.

Top with the tomato slices.

Top with the fresh chopped basil and crushed garlic.

Dollop the mayonnaise-cheese mixture on top.

Gently spread it out over the tart.

Bake the tart for 35 minutes at 350 degrees.  Cut into pie slices and serve – hot or at room temperature.  Enjoy!!

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A little pat of garlic chive herb butter on top of grilled steak, chicken or fish adds a big burst of flavor.

First, cook the steak on the grill until it is done.  Take the steak off the grill and put a pat of herb butter on top of the steak.  While the hot steak rests off the grill, the herb butter melts into the meat and blends in with the natural meat juices creating something absolutely wonderful.  It’s an easy little trick that doesn’t take long but makes you look like a pro.  The specks of green chives and herbs in the butter look so fresh on the steak too.

                            Take a stick of butter and let it come to room temperature.  Add…..really any flavors you want.  Today I put in three cloves crushed garlic, 1 tsp sea salt, pinch of pepper, about 2-3 TBSP chopped fresh chives, 2 TBSP chopped fresh Italian parsley and 1 tsp fresh oregano in the butter.  Stir it all together.

Put a piece of saran wrap down on the counter.  Put the butter in the middle of the wrap.  Fold the saran wrap over the butter and use your hands to form the butter back into a butter stick.

Twirl the ends of the saran wrap to seal the butter and stick it in the freezer.  I usually keep a few different sticks of flavored butter in my freezer to have ready for when we grill.  Just take it out of the freezer, cut off as many pats as you need, re-wrap remaining butter stick and put it back in the freezer.  After I cut off the herb butter pats, I try to let the butter warm up a little bit while I cook the meat – that way it melts into the natural juices from the meat quicker.

See how quick and easy that is?  Enjoy!

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We’ve all got them.  Those tried and true, always getting accolades, could make them in your sleep recipes.  Where you can say to your friends – I’m bringing the orzo and they know what you mean.

The really cool thing about this recipe is you can serve it hot or cold.  If you toss the orzo while it is still hot with the fresh spinach, the spinach will cook, wilt and melt into the dish.  Or if you wait until the orzo cools down to toss it in, the dish tastes more like a pasta spinach salad – fresh and crisp.

Last week we attended a concert at The Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park on the Chicago lakefront.  A beautiful night with awesome friends.  We had a great picnic on the lawn while listening to Ray LaMontagne.  And no…..we absolutely did not sneak any lemon drop martinis into the pavilion.  (Here’s a picture of Ruth and Fred at the concert.  Ruth is doing a really good job hiding the lemon drop martini)

My very talented friend Kerri brought lemony orzo and spinach for the picnic and it was scrumptious!  I can’t wait to share it this recipe with you.

Lemony Orzo and Spinach

Ingredients

1 box orzo (rice shaped pasta), cooked and drained according to directions

6 oz fresh baby spinach, washed and dried

1 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

1 cup crumbled feta

1 pint sweet grape tomatoes

Dressing Ingredients

1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

2/3 cup really good olive oil

1 TBSP Dijon mustard

3 large garlic cloves, crushed

3/4 tsp coarse salt

Method

Squeeze the fresh lemon juice and whisk all the dressing ingredients together until emulsified

I wash the spinach in the sink.  Be sure to pull the spinach out before you drain the water, then the grime and dirt from the spinach stays in the water.

If you do not have a salad spinner run, don’t walk to the store and get one as soon as possible.  I love my OXO salad spinner and use it just about everyday.  I have a little one to spin fresh herbs in too.

Toss the orzo (hot or cold), spinach, grape tomatoes, parmigiano-reggiano, feta and dressing all together.  Enjoy!!

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Make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver, the other is gold.

In college my sorority ended every chapter meeting with the girls spread out in a huge circle, all connected holding hands by placing our right hand over our left wrist and grabbing our neighbor’s similarly placed hands.  We sang the same song every time, the main verse quoted above.

At twenty I was way too cool for school, not super sentimental and partaking in quite a bit of dramatic eye rolling while engaged in this endeavor – what a sappy old-fashioned song we had to sing.

With quite a few years and tears under my belt, I did find myself humming this verse all weekend.  You see, we were lucky enough to spend the weekend with old, treasured (super treasured) friends and I am sentimental, old-fashioned and sappy thinking about how special these folks are to my hubby and I.

And one of our favorite things to do together is cook, which we did Thursday evening.  We made this salad.  I thought it would be fun to share.

This is a very robust salad with big flavors, especially in the vinaigrette.  If anchovies are out of your comfort zone, just trust me and give them a try.  I love the protein punch the garbanzo beans provide.  The Kalamata olives and Asiago cheese create an antipasto platter taste.  I also add sliced Genoa salami to make it an entrée salad.

Chopped Italian Salad with Oregano Vinaigrette

inspired by Mother’s Best cookbook

Salad Ingredients

1 large head Romaine lettuce, washed and dried.  Cut core off the end and slice lettuce crosswise into very thin strips (about 6-8 cups)

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives

1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

1 cup Asiago cheese, cut into match sticks

1/2 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all salad ingredients in a large rustic bowl and toss with Italian Oregano Vinaigrette

Italian Oregano Vinaigrette Ingredients

3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled

3 TBSP dried oregano (yes – 3 TBSP, please buy a fresh jar – dried spices lose most of their flavor after only 3-6 months on the shelf)

6 oil packed anchovy fillets

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1 cup extra light tasting olive oil.  (or you can use half regular olive oil and half salad oil)

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 8-10 times until emulsified.


Drained and rinsed Garbanzo beans, basil  and a can of anchovy fillets.

Asiago cheese cut into match sticks

See, the anchovy fillets aren’t too scary!

Put all vinaigrette ingredients in a food processor and pulse 8-10 times until emulsified.

This vinaigrette packs a powerful flavor punch!

Enjoy!!

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Back in the day, I was very smug in my academic knowledge of the culinary category of cold soup-dom.  Let me set the stage – my downstate hometown was a wonderful place to grow up, but we didn’t have much occasion to eat cold soup like gazpacho or vichyssoise for that matter.  We liked our soup like our women….hot.

As a little girl I remember coming across an article about cold soup in one of the Good Housekeeping or Ladies Home Journal or Redbook magazines at my dentist office.  Completely intrigued, I researched the whole topic (how did we do that pre-Google?).  Gazpacho is a Spanish based, cold, raw soup with a tomato base and loads of fresh vegetables.  Sounded sophisticated and wonderful!  Couldn’t wait to try it.

Vichyssoise – cold potato soup?  Not so much.

Fast forward many years to my first big girl business lunch at my first post college job in big, scary downtown Chicago.  I had on my pumps and my requisite white button down with a silk bow tied at the neck.  Just a wee bit intimidated (really scared shit-less) trying to navigate the menu, participate in the conversation with my elders and make sure I knew which of the three forks to use for what.

That’s when I spotted gazpacho on the menu.  I could finally try it!  All the other stuff fell away, I was transported back to that dentist’s office as a little girl and I quickly ordered.  One of the elders was not familiar with gazpacho so I regaled him with my extensive knowledge, never admitting that I had yet to try it.

The first bite was incredible but surprising.  This was not sophisticated after all, just fresh and acidic and oh-so-tasty.  Homey and comfortable.  I could taste the tomato and the cucumber and the bell peppers separately but then all the flavors came together to create something bigger and better and delicious. Definitely worth the wait.

Gazpacho

inspired by Ina Garten and also Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal or Redbook (can’t remember which one).

Ingredients

6-8 plum tomatoes, cut in half, remove seeds (keep the pulp though) and cut into one inch cubes

2 cucumbers, skin on, cut in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and cut into one inch cubes

3 yellow bell peppers, remove stems and seeds and cut in one inch cubes

1 red onion, cut into one inch cubes

4-6 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

6 cups tomato juice

salt and pepper to taste

Method

The trick to keeping each vegetable flavor separate and not muddling the flavors is to process each vegetable separately in the food processor.  Put the one inch cubes of each vegetable in the food processor one at a time and pulse 8-10 times to roughly chop the vegetable.  Once processed, add to a big bowl.  Don’t over process or you will have a boring, baby food mess!

The tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow bell peppers and red onion each in one inch cubes and in bowl of food processor.

The same, roughly chopped by pulsing the food processor 8-10 times.

Add all the rough chopped vegetables to a big bowl along with 6-8 cloves fresh minced garlic.

Stir all together and salt and pepper to taste.  Whisk together olive oil and white wine vinegar.  Pour over vegetables and stir.  Let all the vegetables have a minute to soak up the great flavors in the vinegar and oil.  Add the tomato juice.  Stir again.  Refrigerate until time to serve. I love serving gazpacho with mini melted cheese toasts.  Enjoy!!

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