Monday, November 15, 2010

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup with Fresh Mozzarella/Pesto Grilled Cheese

While I like to make most things on my own, I have no problem throwing up the surrender flag when I taste something that I don’t think I could make better.  We used to have a grocery store (oh..don’t worry it’s still there, but we’re not)  anyway this grocery store made some of the BEST tomato basil soup I’ve ever had.  I have done pretty well recreating it. BUT I’m not a fan of peeling a ton of tomatoes, nor do I heart blending things, especially hot things.  Yep, you’ve caught me.  Two things I try to stay away from: 1) deep frying anything, it’s just a mess and a waste of oil and 2) dragging out bulky appliances like the blender.    So what am I to do?  Come up with a shortcut that’s equal to, if not better than the one I bought oh so long ago in the deli section of that far away store. 2 out of 2 Wilson children agree with me and Sidda even did a happy dance!!!
And by the way, if it drives you crazy to read passages with random  ……..’s (whatever those things are called), ßparentheses, commas and other punctuation thrown in just turn away now.  Because my writing will make you climb the wall. Not sure why it’s taken me so long to throw that disclaimer in there, but better late than never.
Creamy Tomato Basil soup
3 Tbsp. EVOO
4 cloves of garlic chopped
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 jar your favorite spaghetti sauce~ I recommend Bertolli  Garlic and Olive Oil

1/2 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp. basil ripped
3/4-1 cup heavy cream
Fresh mozzarella/pesto grilled cheese
Sliced sourdough bread ~Stands up better to pressing, or in my case, squashing with a heavy pan J
Fresh mozzarella sliced
Jar of pesto
Cooking instructions:
For the soup:  In heavy bottom large saucepan heat 3tbs EVOO over medium low heat.  Add chopped garlic and crushed red pepper.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, just long enough to infuse the oil with the flavor.  Add your spaghetti sauce and stir.  Stir in chicken broth. You can add more or less depending on how thin/thick you want your soup. Cover and cook over low heat while you make the sandwiches.
Brush one side of each slice of sourdough bread with EVOO. On the other side (the side without the evoo) spread a thin layer of pesto and layer on slices of fresh mozzarella.  Cover with other piece of bread, EVOO side up.  This will keep the sandwich from sticking as well as give it a crunchy golden crust. I like to make mine on a grill pan and since I don’t own a Panini press, I’ll put another heavy bottomed pan on top to press that sandwich down.  Cook sandwiches on medium for about 4 min on each side.  Keep an eye to make sure the sandwich isn’t cooking quicker than the cheese is melting. 
While your sandwiches grill, tear the basil and add it as well as stir in cream.  Remove soup from heat and cover until sandwiches are done.  Ladle soup into dippable bowl, Cut and plate sandwiches and start dunking!!

<------- My panini press ;)


Monday, November 8, 2010

Fool Proof Spaghetti alla Carbonara (lello spaghetti)

Our son was only 3 when we lived in Italy.  Carbonara was his favorite thing when we went out to eat.  He’d always order “lello spaghetti”.   To this day we still refer to it as yellow (finally got that right) spaghetti.  It also happens to be one of the most requested dishes when we have family visits…or when we visit family.  You know who you are.  
It’s hard to find a good Carbonara at chain restaurants. I’ve found they tend to just use a creamy alfredo sauce with bits of bacon. Shame on the gardens of olives in the world for trying to pass alfredo off as Carbonara. this is an egg based sauce, cooked by the heat of the pasta alone, I suggest you use pasteurized eggs if you’re at all leery of eating undercooked eggs.   You can find them at select supermarkets.  They’re also great for Caesar salad dressing and cookie dough that you know little fingers will be dipping into.  Alrighty..movin on…
16 oz box of thick spaghetti
4 slices center cut bacon chopped (traditionally you would use pancetta, but I enjoy the bacon)
½ Cup chopped white onion
4 eggs
¾ cup shredded parmigiano reggiano- please not the cheese in the green can
¼ cup heavy cream
Splash of white wine (maybe a Tbs)

Cooking instructions:
Bring large pot of water to boil for your spaghetti and cook according to directions.
Brown chopped bacon over medium heat.  Once fat begins to render, add onions and sweat.  Cook until bacon is not quite crisp.  Remove from heat if bacon finishes cooking before pasta as to not overcook.
In a medium bowl, beat eggs, add cheese, cream, wine , salt and pepper.  Set aside. 
Once spaghetti is aldente, drain and add to bacon mixture, yep…fat and all.  Toss to coat.  Quickly add the spaghetti/bacon mixture back to the pot you boiled it in and get ready to stir stir stir. Add the egg mixture and quickly stir to keep eggs from scrambling. This process will be what cooks and thickens the sauce.  Serve pasta immediately.  This dish does not reheat well.

Black Bean Patties

If you go through my pantry, you’ll notice that I’m a hoarder of two things….beans and nuts.  Not sure why, but every time I got to the supermarket I think, I’d better pick up some beans. Just in case I don’t have any.  I have at least three cans of every type of beans you can find AND bags of dried beans.  I’m not sure what the inspiration was for my black bean patties.  It was such a long time ago that I first made them that I can’t recall. I can only assume it was to make room for more groceries.

Black bean patties
½ cup finely chopped purple onion
1/3 cup finely chopped red pepper
1 Tbs. diced pickled jalapeños (you can use fresh but I like the flavor of the pickled)
1 14.5 oz can of low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
1 package sazon (spice found in the Latin food isle of your supermarket, my favorite spice!)
1 large egg
½ cup plain bread crumbs
Canola oil

Avocado salad
One ripe avocado
¼ cup red onion
½ medium tomato chopped and seeded
2 Tbs. lemon juice (I prefer lemon juice as it allows the avocado flavor come through)
Pinch of grey salt

Cooking instructions:
In large bowl, mix onion, pepper and jalapeños.  Add black beans and mash until some of the beans are left whole but most are mashed.  I use the back of a large spoon. I don’t suggest using a food processor because it will leave the mixture too heavy.
Pour in one packet of sazon and one egg.  Mixture will be quite gooey and wet.  Stir in just enough of the bread crumbs to help you form patty.  Mixture should still be wet and delicate.  The more crumbs you add, the heavier the patties will be. 
Form into patties.  One can should make 6 patties. 
Heat just enough canola oil to cover bottom of skillet over medium high heat. Carefully add each patty and cook for 3-4 min on the first side until brown crust forms.  Patty will be ready to flip when it releases from the pan and does not stick. Cook another 4-5 min on the other side. 
Remove to a paper towel lined plate and immediately sprinkle with salt.
Serve with dollop of sour cream and avocado salad.

Avocado salad:
Roughly chop the onion, tomato and avocado and add to bowl.  Stir in lemon juice and finishing salt.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Punkin’ corn chowder
Anyone that knows me knows how much I love pet names…punkin is at the top of the list, along with puddin’, cookie, snickerdoodle..really anything that will put a smile on your face. I don’t think it’s a coincidence all my pet names are a type of food.   Love the words, love the food, love the scent of the candles, love this time of year. 
I had a version of pumpkin soup the other day and I thought, I can do that….and better!!  Really, that’s exactly what I said! So played around a bit, tossed it around in my head and came up with this.  Oh and can I tell you that I really wanted to garnish this with pepitas..LOVE THEM.  Searched my market high and low for them.  My produce guy rescued me and pointed me in the right direction…then, I completely forgot them!! Oh man….  But I digress..lets move on…
·         Punkin corn chowder drizzled with cream infused with sage and ginger.  Topped with crispy prosciutto.
1 large shallot
2+1 Tbs butter
3 Tbs Flour
1 ½ Cups milk
2/3 cup Chicken Broth
½ 14.5 oz can pumpkin
2 cups frozen corn
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Heavy Cream
Handful fresh sage
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
2 pieces prosciutto

Cooking instructions:
In a small, heavy bottom sauce pan, add heavy cream, sage, ginger and salt.  Heat but do not boil.  When warm, turn off heat and let cream steep.  Allow the cream to cool and strain into a measuring cup.
Meanwhile, in large pot, melt 2tbs butter over medium heat. Add shallots and sweat for 3 minutes.  Add flour and allow to cook until not raw.  Slowly add milk and whisk to avoid lumps.  Add salt and pepper at this point.  Whisk until mixture thickens, add cinnamon and nutmeg.  Turn heat to medium low and add pumpkin.  Stir till combined.  Begin adding chicken broth to thin mixture to your liking. Turn heat to low and add in frozen corn.  Add additional salt and pepper at this point to taste. Finish chowder with last Tbs. of butter.
While corn is cooking, place two slices prosciutto or bacon in small skillet.  Fry over medium high heat until crispy.
Ladle soup into serving dish, slowly swirl in sage/ginger infused cream. Crumble prosciutto on top. (and pepitas if you don’t forget J )
I also served this with croustinis for dipping.  Filling and delicious.