Italian Sausage & Pasta Soup

[This is a post that I wrote months ago and never put on the blog. No picture, just a fantastic recipe.]

During this health “event”, I have been so lucky to have the support of friends and family. My oldest (not in age) friend in CA, ABM, arranged a schedule for people to come over to my house and bring lunch to me, hang out, and take a walk. It has been such a blessing because I’ve been able to see friends, catch up and have some excellent meals! Even though, especially in the first few weeks, I haven’t been able to leave home so often, I’ve felt like these lunches have kept me in the social loop.

One of these lunches was generously prepared by my friend JT. She had a big task because she not only brought lunch to me, but my sister was in town helping me, and S & J were unexpectedly home for lunch. Luckily, JT loves to feed people and arrived with a lot of delicious, hearty soup and a beautiful loaf of bread – all beautifully presented in big mason jars inside a basket lined with linens and everything she needed to serve lunch. My sister and I loved the soup so much, we wouldn’t let JT leave the house without extracting a promise to share the soup recipe with us.
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Get Well Soon Soup

Carrot Soup
When friends and family have had surgery, my first response has been to make a carrot soup that is like a health tonic. To me, and seemingly to those for whom I’ve made it, it is the first meal that makes them feel better. I even have one friend, for whom I made this, that doesn’t like carrots and still craved a second bowl of this soup.

So, today, I made carrot soup. For me. I’m going to be having some surgery and will have a road to recovery that does not include cooking. I won’t be able to lift more than 5 lbs. for a while. And, I won’t be able to bend my back….so chopping and rolling and bending over to breath in the fragrance of a pot on the stove are all out.

But, I’ll be back and good as new as soon as I can be. Then, there will be menus galore and lots of conversation to report on from our dinner table.

Get Well Soon Carrot Soup
AKA Orange Velvet

1 large onion, sliced thinly
2 tbsp. butter
6 large carrots (about 1 ½ lbs.), peeled and cut into ½ inch slices
1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
1 can low sodium chicken broth (or 2 cups homemade chicken broth)
Approx. 2 ½ cups Water

Pepper, salt, cayenne to taste

Saute onion in butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat until onion is starting to brown. Pour in the broth and heat until boiling. Add carrots and potatoes. Add water to cover the vegetables by about 1/4 inch. Stir and cover the pot. Turn down heat and simmer until all the vegetables are very tender – about 20 minutes.

Puree the soup, in batches, in a blender, until very smooth.

Add seasonings as desired.

Serves 4 generously.

4th of July Recap

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I’m still full. Actually, that isn’t true. I’m full from eating leftovers for lunch.

The new recipes that I tried for our celebration last night with JS and JO were a hit.

First off, we had wonderful starters prepared by JS. Perfectly ripe honeydew melon draped in shaved proscuitto and creamy, rich deviled eggs sprinkled with paprika were devoured by our intimate group.

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I was too busy lounging around, kid-free, during the day to mentally time the meal and I forgot that I wanted to bake a fresh loaf of bread (from dough that I had made a few days ago – from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day). While it takes no time flat to make the bread dough, it still takes a while to let it rest out of the fridge and then to bake. And, I forgot about the beets. So, after we talked and talked, while I was getting the fruit tart ready, I looked at the clock and said, “Whoa, look at the time. Is it o.k. if we wait a little while for dinner?” “Sure,” S and our guests replied. I got out the bread dough, put it on a pizza peel to rise for 40 minutes and got started on the beets and beet greens.

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Black Bean Soup

Black Bean Soup

Monday night, I made an old recipe for me, that is new to my family. It is a recipe for Black Bean Soup that was copied from the New York Times, given to me by a friend from work…about 16 years ago. I remember making it then, and loving it. I have made it since, but not for a very, very long time.

It also helped me rise to the challenge that my niece set out for me. “How about a vegan recipe,” she said. Well, this one is vegan. It is also healthy and filling, and is based on a recipe from Rancho La Puerta, a well known spa on the Baja peninsula in Mexico.

J said she liked the “broth”. There was no broth, just pureed beans and vegetables (note to self: puree a little extra for her next time). L liked it so much that she asked for it in her lunch box for Tuesday. I served it with the fresh organic whole wheat bread that I got for free at our local supermarket, which is having a promotion.

I had the recipe stashed in a recipe box. It is a definite keeper and I won’t wait 16 years to make it again. The recipe makes about 6 hearty servings. We had two left as of Monday night. Tuesday….they were gone. I think I’ll double the recipe and freeze half next time.

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Luncheon for 16

Cold Borscht
Throwing a party is very, very fun and very, very low stress when you share the work with good friends. Last Friday, I hosted a luncheon at my house with 2 great friends in honor of another great friend.

The menu was inspired by a Russian theme, but we didn’t stick totally to the theme. Here is what the ladies were served:

Appetizers and drinks: Cold Borscht served in demitasse cups, Cheese Puffs, Crab Salad in Endive, Vodka with Lemonade, Iced Tea
Lunch: Poached Salmon with dill sauce, cucumber salad, orzo salad, black bread
Dessert: Russian tea cookies, raspberry and coconut sorbet

My cooking to-do’s were the Cold Borscht and the Poached Salmon. I also put together the sorbets (Haagen Daz) and the Vodka drink.
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Pasta e Fagioli

pasta-e-fagioli
When we were on the East coast visiting during winter break, we took a little side trip to visit my brother in Philadelphia. It was a quick visit, but we had a very memorable meal. My sister-in-law, AAB, is a great cook. She always makes special treats for us when we visit, an effort which is not lost on any of us food lovers!

Dinner was so good on our recent visit, that I’ve made her recipes multiple times. One of them, I’ve written about: Speedy No-Knead Bread. For tonight’s bread, I added some lemon zest and rosemary to this simple bread. It was great, as usual. The girls still put honey on the bread, as my nieces did in Philly. Is there anything better than fresh bread with butter and honey? Such total comfort food.

The other dish that AAB cooked was Pasta e Fagioli (pasta fazoole), a hearty bean and pasta soup. The recipe that she used is from Cook’s Illustrated. She modified it to make it a little lighter by using Canadian bacon instead of pancetta. I’ve further changed it to make it a little more liquid by cooking the pasta separately. This helps because the recipe makes a lot of soup (it says it serves 8-10, but I think it is more like 6-8). By cooking the pasta separately, you can save and/or freeze the leftover soup for another day. I also add some chopped carrot. Tonight, when I made the soup, I threw in some green beans because I had them in the house. So the soup was more like a minestrone consistency, with the flavor of the Pasta e Fagioli.
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Too Darn Hot

gazpacho-bowlIt is at least 88 degrees outside and we just couldn’t deal with hot food tonight.

We also went out for a big, Vietnamese lunch at a local restaurant we’ve been wanting to try. It was great and we all ate too much.

So, for dinner, the request was Gazpacho. Love it. I cleaned off the outdoor furniture so that we could eat al fresco. It feels like summer.

tomatoes-preptomatoes-choppedcuke-prepcuke-chopped

I’m on a roll with the Barefoot Contessa, lately. Ina Garten’s recipes are always good. They are well tested. I have yet to have one flop. Each recipe that I’ve tried has been just as billed.

The Gazpacho recipe in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Ina Garten’s first book, is dog-eared and stained in my copy. I’ve made a few adjustments to it for our family’s taste. For instance, I can’t ever add as much raw garlic as almost any recipe calls for (unless it gets cooked along the way). Garlic affects some people – it stays with them. I am one of those people. J doesn’t like too much red pepper and this recipe is long on red pepper. I keep some aside, if anyone wants more red pepper.

L remarked that the soup looks just like salsa (pico de gallo). She is right. A little wetter that most salsas, but the vegetables are cut in a similar size. The biggest difference is no lime juice and no cilantro. And, while I gladly eat a bowl of gazpacho, I can’t imagine eating a whole bowl of salsa!

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