Category Archives: Dinner

Sausage, White Bean and Arugula Soup

soup with titleIf you were to join me for lunch lately, you’d be eating a lot of soup. We might have Chicken and Rice Soup, Lettuce Soup or maybe this Sausage, White Bean and Arugula Soup. I don’t think it’s any secret that soup makes an ideal lunch food: It’s easy to make ahead and reheat for lunch; it’s usually full of veggies and other healthy things; and it freezes well. As much as I love cooking, making lunch can feel like a chore if I’m deep in other projects. Pulling a single serving of soup out of the freezer gives me one less thing to worry about.

Since tomorrow marks the first day of autumn, I thought this hearty soup would be a great way to usher in the new season. A blend of hot and sweet Italian sausage is the key to creating a spicy, flavorful broth. The paprika in the hot sausage adds ample heat, while the fennel of the sweet sausage lends it that characteristic Italian flavor. White beans add creaminess and wilted arugula provides a touch of bitterness.

soup horizontal_620pxThe traditional accompaniment for white beans and sausage is a bitter green called escarole, but this Italian cousin of endive proved elusive when I went grocery shopping. I figured my readers might also have trouble tracking it down and decided to use a more readily available green—arugula. If you can find escarole, use it; otherwise, arugula makes a fine substitute.

Happy autumn, friends! And enjoy the weekend.

Recipe adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

Serves 4-6 as an entree

Ingredients

½ pound bulk hot Italian sausage
½ pound bulk sweet (mild) Italian sausage
7 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 cups packed arugula
2 (15 oz.) cans white beans (such as great northern or cannellini), drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken broth or stock
1 large tomato, diced
salt and pepper
½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Make the Sausage, White Bean and Arugula Soup

Brown the sausage in a large pot over medium heat, breaking the sausage into bite-sized pieces with a wooden spoon. Once the sausage is cooked, about 7-10 minutes, stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring frequently, until garlic softens, about 2 minutes. Stir in the arugula and cook until it wilts, about 2 minutes. Add the white beans, chicken broth and diced tomato, stir and bring to a simmer. Simmer for at least ten minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish with grated parmesan.

Lettuce Soup

lettuce soup plainI know. Lettuce soup sounds less than appetizing. I wasn’t so sure about it at first either. As far as I was concerned, lettuce was best served crisp in a salad. After all, what better way to appreciate the cool, cunchy ribs of romaine or the delicately sweet leaves of red oak lettuce than chilled, gently torn and drizzled with olive oil and vinegar? Surely raw was the best way to appreciate the essence of lettuce.

But then there were the exceptions, poking and tugging their questions at my assertion: What about braised Swiss chard? And grilled iceberg lettuce wedges? Or the oh-so-popular kale and spinach smoothies? When I considered the many forms in which leafy greens appear at the dining table, lettuce soup began to sound a little less odd.

These are the thoughts that scuttled through my mind from the moment the cashier at La Boulange announced that the soup of the day was Herbs and Lettuces. I’m not sure whether it was my brief internal discourse on the essence of lettuce or the cashier’s reassurance that “It’s actually really good!” that convinced me, but I decided to live the wild life and order the lettuce soup.

A few minutes later a cup of dark green soup drizzled with olive oil arrived at my table. I swirled my spoon into the soup and inspected before I ate. It was pureed, much like a cream soup, and maintained its dark color throughout. I lifted the spoon to my lips and tasted. Not bad. In fact, it actually was “actually really good!” The soup was smooth and vegetal—oh wait, I’m describing soup not wine—the soup had a bright, herby-sweet vegetable flavor. What was lacking in texture (alas those cool, crisp ribs of romaine!) was made up for by concentrated lettuce flavor. I knew I would order this soup again.

It wasn’t until I tried recreating lettuce soup at home that I realized one of its chief virtues: Lettuce soup was the perfect vehicle for using the leafy greens so often wilting in my refrigerator. (That never happens to you?) Not only that, it provided a noble end for some sad looking spinach and freezer-burned green peas. A glug of Sauvignon Blanc, a swirl of crème fraiche and plenty of salt and black pepper were all that was needed to give the soup a boost—and prove that lettuce, whatever guise it assumes, is still lettuce.

This soup can be on the table in thirty minutes, but because the flavor improves with time, consider making it in advance.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious.com. 

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 head of lettuce, washed and roughly chopped (9 cups)
2 cups spinach, washed
1 cup of fresh or frozen green peas
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
3 cups of water
¼ cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
¼ cup crème fraiche or sour cream
pepper
salt

Make the Lettuce Soup

Head the olive oil in a large pot over low heat until shimmering. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about six minutes. Add the garlic and coriander and sauté for one minute, stirring frequently so garlic does not brown. Stir in the lettuce, spinach, peas, potato cubes and water. Increase heat to medium, bring soup to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes or until potato is tender. Remove pot from heat and blend the soup until fairly smooth with an immersion blender or in batches in a standing blender. (Be extra careful when blending hot liquids! We don’t want any accidents.) Stir in the white wine and sour cream or crème fraîche. Season with plenty of salt and pepper.

 

Farfalle with Grilled Vegetables and Fire Roasted Tomatoes

sausage and tomatoes

Fire roasted canned tomatoes are without a doubt one of the most delicious supermarket finds I’ve discovered lately. While plain canned tomatoes have their place—they’re my go-to if fresh tomatoes aren’t in season or look unpalatable—fire roasted canned tomatoes put them to shame. I first used fire roasted tomatoes in Heidi Swanson’s tomato soup recipe, and ever since I tasted their smoky, charred flavor, I’ve been dreaming of all the dishes they would kick up a notch—chilis, pastas, soups.

grilled veggies

sauce sausage pasta

A couple weeks ago I finally stopped dreaming of fire roasted canned tomatoes and incorporated them into this pasta dish. I love pasta dishes that are light on pasta and heavy on veggies, and this pasta fits that bill. I made a simple tomato sauce by pureeing a couple cans of fire roasted tomatoes (mine contained green chiles, which added extra kick). Then I added chopped grilled eggplant, zucchini, red onions and bell peppers.  Crumbled spicy Italian chicken sausage rounded out the mix-ins and added even more spice. I served the sauce with farfalle, but of course you can use any pasta you like.

farfalle with grilled vegetables and fire roasted tomatoes

If six servings of pasta is more than you need, consider cooking all of the sauce, grilled veggies and sausage but not all the pasta. Save the leftover sauce-veggie-meat mixture for another dinner and cook the pasta as you need it.

Serves 6

Recipe adapted from Everyday Food’s Ratatouille Pasta (June 2012).

Ingredients

1 medium Globe eggplant
½ medium red onion
1 red bell pepper
2 zucchini
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 (15 oz.) cans fire roasted tomatoes
4 spicy Italian chicken sausages
1 pound farfalle pasta
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup fresh basil leaves

Make the Farfalle with Grilled Vegetables and Fire Roasted Tomatoes

Preheat grill to medium. Slice the eggplant, zucchini and onion lengthwise into ¾ inch thick slabs. Thread the onion onto skewers if you’re worried they might fall apart on the grill. Cut the red bell pepper in half lengthwise and remove the stem and seeds. Brush the vegetables with olive oil and grill until tender and lightly charred. When vegetables are cool enough to touch, chop into bite-sized pieces.

Meanwhile, puree the fire roasted tomatoes with an immersion blender. Remove the casings from the sausage and crumble into bite-sized pieces. If the sausage is not already fully cooked, cook it in a skillet over medium heat. Combine the pureed tomatoes and cooked sausage in a large pot over low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the chopped grilled vegetables and stir well.

In another large pot, bring several quarts of water to a boil. Salt the water generously, add the farfalle and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until done to your liking. Drain the pasta and add the pasta to the pot of sauce, vegetables and sausage. Stir well, and when all the ingredients are steaming hot, add the parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. Stir until well incorporated. Plate the pasta and garnish with the basil.

Cream of Broccoli and Green Pea Soup

Cream of Broccoli and Green Pea Soup
After months of infrequent rain showers, we’re finally getting a deluge of rain, and it’s to soups that I’ve been turning to stave off the chill. When I saw the recipe for Cream of Broccoli soup in the April issue of Everyday Food, I knew it would be a good use for the head of broccoli that had been in the refrigerator for, well, let’s just leave it at too long. Unlike the many cream soups that get their creaminess from a generous dousing of cream, sour cream or even mascarpone, this soup’s creamy texture comes from using a roux (and a little bit of heavy cream).

A roux is mixture of equal parts of flour and fat, oftentimes butter, that is briefly cooked before being added to broth or milk. The roux thickens the liquid with which it’s combined and adds depth of flavor. Rouxs are commonly used to thicken classical French sauces (think béchamel and bordelaise), New England clam chowder and Creole dishes such as gumbo. If the idea of making a roux is intimidating, don’t worry: the hardest part is knowing how to pronounce it (“roo”). This soup offers a simple way to experience firsthand how flour and butter can thicken broth, and in no time at all, you’ll have conquered the roux and added another technique to your cooking toolbox.

bread and soup

Serves four.
Recipe adapted from Everyday Food, April 2012.

In my version of Cream of Broccoli soup, I’ve added green peas. Feel free to use all broccoli or throw in any other vegetables you have waiting to be used.

Ingredients

¼ cup (½ stick) butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
¼ cup all purpose flour
4 cups chicken or turkey broth
1 cup water
12 oz. broccoli
4 oz. (scant 1 cup) frozen green peas, defrosted
¼ cup heavy cream
salt
freshly ground black pepper

Make the Cream of Broccoli and Green Pea Soup

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the flour and stir to coat the onions and cook the flour, about 1 minute. Cooking the flour before adding the liquid removes the raw taste of the flour. Pour the broth and water into the pot and stir to incorporate. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, cut the broccoli into florets and the stem into 1-inch chunks. Add the broccoli and peas to the simmering broth and cook uncovered for 20 minutes or until broccoli is tender.

Using an immersion blender, carefully blend the hot soup in the pot to a smooth consistency. Alternatively, puree the soup in a blender (puree soup in small batches, filling blender only halfway) and return to the pot. Stir in the heavy cream and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Flatbread with Prosciutto, Gruyere, Arugula & Caramelized Onions + A Stop Motion Video

flatbread2_620px

flatbread1_620px

Essen, Trinken, Treffen—Eat, Drink, Meet, I translated the the words on the window of a soon-to-open restaurant. So it’s going to be a German restaurant, I thought. This is either going to be a hit or a miss. A year after first discovering the restaurant, I can tell you that Leopold’s has been a hit.

With just the right balance of kitsch and culture, Leopold’s has become a hip spot to sample German beers or chow down on Alpine comfort food. Waiting more than an hour for a seat is not unusual, so pop in as soon as the doors open for dinner at 5:30 pm or do what Emily does and have a drink at Tonic across the street while you wait.

These days, you’ll find me eating the goulash as my entrée and the flatbread as my appetizer. Since I’m not always up for braving the wait at Leopold’s, I created my own version of their flatbread so I can enjoy it at home. With it’s crisp crust, melty cheese, salty prosciutto, peppery arugula and sweet caramelized onion, this flatbread is pretty hard to resist.

But wait…there’s more!

Oftentimes when I’m choosing which photos to put on my blog, I get a case of Lead Finger Syndrome and scroll through the photos really quickly, which makes the photos look like a stop motion video. I get a kick out of it every time, and I thought it would be fun to create a stop motion cooking video. So here you have it—not only my first stop motion video, but the first video I’ve ever created for Tomato Tango.

[youtube Oz1XDSLsn6g]

And in the spirit of the upcoming Academy Awards, I’d like to thank iMovie for enabling me to actualize my dream of creating a video; my tripod for being as solid as a rock click after click; and the plastic baggie that shielded my camera from what could have been a sticky situation. I couldn’t have done it without any of you.

Makes two 14-inch flatbreads. Serves eight as an appetizer or 4 as a light main course.

Recipe Source: Dough and caramelized onions adapted from Cook’s Illustrated’s Pissaldiere recipe.

Ingredients

For Dough:
2 cups (11 oz.) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus additional for brushing on the dough
1 cup (8 oz.) warm water (about 110°F)

For Caramelized Onions:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound yellow onions, sliced
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons water

Additional Toppings:
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
4 slices prosciutto, sliced into ½-inch strips
1/2 cup packed arugula leaves (or 2 generous handfuls)

Make the Dough

Combine the flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. With the motor running, gradually add the olive oil and water and process until the dough forms a ball around the processor blade, about 15 seconds. (If you don’t have a food processor, stir together the flour, yeast and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in 1 tablespoon olive oil and the warm water. Stir until wet and dry ingredients are well incorporated, using your hands if the dough is difficult to handle with a spoon.)

Dust a clean work surface with flour, turn dough out onto surface and knead lightly to form a smooth ball. (Knead the dough a few minutes longer if you did not use a food processor to make the dough.) The dough will be slightly tacky. Place dough in a lightly-oiled medium bowl and allow to rise in a warm spot until doubled in volume, 1 to 1½  hours.

Make the Caramelized Onions

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the onions, salt and brown sugar. Stirring frequently, cook the onions for about 10 minutes or just until they are beginning to brown. Reduce the heat to low. Continue cooking and stirring onions until golden brown and caramelized, about 20 minutes longer. Remove from heat and stir in the water. This will make more caramelized onions than you need for the flatbreads, so save the extras for salads, sandwiches or whatever else you like.

Assemble and Bake the Flatbreads

Preheat oven to 500°F. With floured hands, divide the dough into two pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Brush each ball with olive oil and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cover two baking sheets with parchment paper.

With well-oiled hands, shape one piece of dough into a 14 x 8 inch oval, using fingertips to dimple and stretch the dough into the proper shape. Top the dough with several grinds of pepper and half of the caramelized onions and Gruyere. Bake the flatbread for 10 minutes, remove from baking sheet and place directly on rack for 3 more minutes or until bottom is well-browned. While the first flatbread is baking, shape and top the second flatbread.

After removing the flatbread from the oven, top with half of the arugula and strips of prosciutto. Slice into pieces and serve.

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