Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fagioli Soup

This is another recipe that I used my new slow cooker to make.  It is also based on a recipe from Italian Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone.  I love eating soups in winter, and I hope to have more time to experiment with the slow cooker and the soup recipes.  Since this also has pasta it was a good compromise and encouragement for my husband to give it a try as he is not that big on soups.  It is a bit thicker than a regular soup and very satisfying.

Fagioli Soup
1 celery rib, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small can (10 oz) chopped canned tomatoes (you can use fresh too if peeled and seeded)
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 1/2 cups water
2 cans white beans (I used cannellini and great northern.)
crushed red pepper
8 ounces spaghetti, broken into pieces or soup pasta

In braise mode or in a pan on the stove, cook the celery and garlic over medium heat until the garlic is golden.  Pour mixture into the slow cooker.  Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and water and stir together.  Add the white beans, salt to taste and a couple of pinches of red peppers flakes and stir.  Cook on low for 4 hours.   Add the pasta and cook until done, about 20-30 minutes depending on the pasta.  Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Roasted Vegetable Orzo

When you have a lot of vegetables and are not sure what to do with them, try this recipe.  The orzo reminds me of a rice based dish, but in reality it is more like a pasta salad.  You can mix up any kinds of vegetables to get a different taste or feel.  I meant to put kale into this salad, but once the roasted leaves came out of my oven, I devoured them.  If you can resist try them in this salad.  Roasting the vegetables sweetens the vegetables which makes this salad.  If you haven't cooked with orzo before, you should try it.  It cooks up easily and mixes well with any variety of vegetables and dressings.  The inspiration for this salad came from 101 cookbooks author Heidi Swanson.  If you haven't checked out her blog you should.

Roasted Veggie Orzo Salad
Roasted vegetables (I used brussel sprouts, broccoli, leeks, garlic and onions)
olive oil
1 1/4 cups orzo (uncooked)
plain yogurt

Preheat oven to 400F.  Line  1-2 baking sheets with parchment paper (depends on how many vegetables you are roasting).  Cut all the vegetables (about 5-6 cloves of garlic) into similar sized pieces so they will all roast at the same rate.  Toss all the vegetables with olive oil and salt.  Bake for about 30 minutes.  Toss once or twice to make sure everything is roasted evenly.

Put water on to boil to cook the orzo.  Add salt.  When boiling add the orzo and cook according to package instructions.  Remove and run under cool water.  Toss with a little olive oil.  For dressing, remove the shell from the roasted garlic and mash it with a little salt and yogurt.  Add more yogurt (about a half cup in total) and add more garlic to taste.

When ready to serve, toss the orzo, roasted vegetables and yogurt (start with half and adjust for taste).  For topping you can use toasted sesame or pumpkin seeds, and/or scallions.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Quiche Lorraine

If you haven't tried Quiche Lorraine, you really should.  My husband is not a big fan of quiches, but they are something that has always struck a cord.  They remind me of Easter Sunday where sometimes the maker knew what they were doing and it turned out well, but the other times the quiche was wet and leaky and just not so good.  (Those were more the mass produced for a large group of people.)  Quiche Lorraine is different though because it isn't a thick quiche, so the flavors of whatever you put in it - in this case crisp bacon and a bit of cheese - really comes through without having to weed through all the eggy batter to figure out what the flavor should be.

Another good memory of Quiche Lorraine was on a visit to Germany.  My parents had an exchange student whose family I was visiting.  They live on the boarder with France.  One of the many delicious meals I ate with the family included a Quiche Lorraine.  It was quickly put together and it helped feed the family gathering we were at one afternoon.

I was reading through Homemade by Clodagh McKenna which is where I stumbled across her version of Quiche Lorraine.  This is based off her recipe.

Quiche Lorraine  (serves about 8)
1 1/2 cups flour
pinch of salt
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 egg, slightly beaten

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
bacon - I used thick cut bacon, about 5 -6 pieces fried (about a cup), broken or cut into pieces
4 eggs beaten
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup cream
salt and pepper to taste

Pastry: sift the flour and salt into a bowl.  Rub in the cold butter until you have a small crumbly texture.  Add the egg and and bring the mixture together to form a dough.  (Add water if the mixture is too dry.)  Wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for half an hour.  Remove from the refrigerator and roll out the dough into a big round.  Butter a tart pan and place the dough on it.  Chill again until the filling ingredients are ready.

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place parchment and dough weights in the center.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the pie weights and parchment and return the pie shell to the oven for another 3-5 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325F.  Sprinkle the cheese onto the bottom of the pie shell.  Sprinkle the bacon bits on top of the cheese.  Combine the eggs, milk and cream and whisk.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Pour the mixture over the bacon and cheese.  Trim the pastry.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until set.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  This will allow the pastry to set a bit more as it cools.  Slice and serve.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sauteed Chicken with Tomato Pan Sauce

Since I could cook, I have been pan frying chicken.  The most basic one I ever did was frozen chicken breast pan fried with a little oil or butter...just enough so it wouldn't stick and then fried until there was a delicious pan sauce.  Since I have learned a bit more since then I have discovered that this is a great way to cook to make an even better sauce to serve with the chicken, but I use more than just chicken to achieve it.  I am particular to adding wine to get all those good cooked on bits up and keep their flavor for the sauce.

This recipe is yet another based on one from the book Keepers by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion.  I have made quite a few things from their book, but I want to try even more.  As I have mentioned before, they are great meals to cook during the week as they come together quickly and most don't have a ton of ingredients.  I love a quick meal which tastes great too, which is my ideal during the week.

Sauteed Chicken with Tomato Pan Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 -1 1/2 pound chicken breast cut into portions or smaller pieces (as you like)
salt and pepper
1 sweet onion, chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 pint cherry tomatoes (I used cherub sunsweet tomatoes)
1 1/2 teaspoons chives, chopped (or basil)

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the unsalted butter over medium high heat.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  Once the butter has melted, add the chicken until it is golden brown (depending on thickness about 4-5 minutes).  Turn the chicken over, reduce heat to medium and cover the pan until the chicken is cooked through (again depending on thickness about 5-7 minutes).  Remove the chicken to a plate and cover while you make the pan sauce.

Pour off all, but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the chicken and return the heat to medium.  Add the onion and cook until fragrant.  Add the wine and scrape any caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add the diced tomatoes.  Once heated through, remove from heat and add the Italian seasoning and the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter.  Check seasonings and add salt or pepper if needed.  Serve the chicken with the pan sauce over it.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Mushroom Barley Soup

I am sure I have said this before, I love a good soup in winter or just as the weather is turning cold.  It warms you up from the inside and is an easy comfort food.  I used to make a homemade tomato and potato soup with whatever I had on hand.  My husband was not so fond of that soup, so as is usual for me, I wanted to venture out to find some soups that he would enjoy with me.  We both like mushrooms, so that was a good place to start.  I made this soup when he was away on a business trip, but when he returned he tried it, liked it and actually asked for it again later.  It is based on the recipe in Homemade Winter by yvette van boven.
This soup starts with aromatics.
And they smell so good when you begin cooking (hence the name).
This is after adding the mushrooms before they have released their moisture.

Mushroom Barley Soup
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 white or yellow onion
2 stalks celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
16-18 ounces mushrooms (I like crimini, but you can use white button or a mix), chopped
1/2 barley (or farro)  (you can make with this rice to be gluten free)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
5 cups vegetable stock
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Add the onion, celery and carrot and cook until the onion starts to become brown.  Add the garlic and fresh mushrooms.  Stir frequently until the mushrooms release their moisture.  Add the barley (or farro) and turn up the heat so the grain can absorb the liquid.   Stir in tomato paste.  Add the vegetable stock.  Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper and simmer over a low heat for about 35 minutes or until the barley (or farro) is tender.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Italian Style Sausage Pasta Sauce (slow cooker recipe)

Last Christmas I received a really cool fast, slow cooker.  This thing is amazing; it can braise, slow cook and pressure cook in the same machine.  I have not yet experimented with the pressure cooker setting, but the slow cooker part I really love.  You can also extend the warming time before or after cooking.  One of the first things I tried in the slow cooker part was a recipe for pasta sauce.  My husband loves pasta and sauce and is constantly asking me to make this sauce for him.  It also freezes well as it makes a large batch (10 cups).

Spicy Sausage Pasta Sauce (adapted from Italian Slow Cooker by M. Scicolone)
1 pound spicy Italian sausage
1 large red onion
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 dry red wine
1 28 ounce can Italian peeled tomatoes with basil and in their juice, roughly chopped
1 28 ounce can tomato puree
salt to taste

Turn the setting to braise (or in a skillet before putting into the slow cooker).  Break the sausage into lumps and brown.  Once the sausage is browned, add the chopped onion and garlic and cook until the onion is tender.  Add the wine and scrape down the sides of the pan.  Pour the contents into the slow cooker.  Add the roughly chopped tomatoes, puree and a pinch of salt.  Cook for 5 hours.  Taste for seasoning once complete.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tomato Pie

During my last year of high school I was an exchange student to New Zealand.  One of my friends there was from Sweden.  One night she invited me for dinner, and she had made a recipe from Sweden - tomato pie.  I was in heaven.  My grandma taught me to love tomatoes and I frequently eat them as she does - only with salt.  So when I had this tomato pie, I fell in love.  I am sure I asked her for the recipe, but I never made it and have since lost the recipe.  When I visited her in Sweden some years later, she made it for me again....and again I was in love.  So when I saw this recipe from America's Test Kitchen, I knew it was time that I tried to make it.  I still long for the recipe my friend gave me all those years ago, but this one was a very good replica even if it didn't have the wonderful memories attached to that Swedish tomato pie.

Summer Tomato Pie
Double crust pie dough  (see below)
2 pounds tomatoes (I used roma), thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
4-5 scallions sliced

Double crust pie dough
2 1/4 flour
8 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
cold water

Directions:  Mix flour with cold butter and salt until the dough resembles small crumbs.  Add cold water until a ball of dough comes together.  Divide into two pieces for a top and a bottom dough.  (Refrigerate until you roll it out.)
Layer the thinly sliced tomatoes on paper towels/cutting boards to drain off as much water as possible.  Sprinkle with salt to avoid for more weeping.  Press dry with paper towels.  Roll out your dough and place one round in the bottom of a 9 inch pie plate.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Roll out the top round as well and also place that in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 450F.  Spread a layer of shredded cheese on the bottom of the pie dough.  Mix the mayonnaise, cornstarch, and remaining cheese in a bowl.  Place a third of the tomatoes on top of the cheese.  Then sprinkle half of the cheese and mayonnaise mixture over the tomatoes.  Place another layer of tomatoes over the cheese.  Sprinkle the last of the cheese on top and place the remaining tomatoes on top.  Sprinkle the scallions on top (or between each layer if desired).  Arrange the crust on top of the pie and press the edges together.  Place on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 10 minutes.  Then reduce the heat to 325F and baked until the crust is golden brown, about 50-60 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool on a rack until room temperature.  Serve at room temperature or slightly warm.  (The next day I put it in the microwave for a minute just to slightly warm it up and bring out the flavors.)