Category Archives: Vegetables

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.

 

Bruschetta with Roasted Vegetables and Homemade Ricotta

There are certain foods and recipes that food bloggers go crazy for—donuts, cupcakes, homemade marshmallows. And while those items are tasty in their in own time and place, the food trend I can’t stop talking about is homemade ricotta.

A few weeks ago I decided to make a vegetable tart that required ricotta. Instead of heading to the store for a tub of overpriced, sub-par ricotta, I decided to test what I had been reading on so many food blogs: ricotta is both easy to make and much more delicious than store-bought. Making my own ricotta for this veggie tart might not have been the most sane decision considering (1) I had never made ricotta before and the tart recipe hinged on its success (2) I would still have to go to the store to buy buttermilk and heavy cream to make the ricotta (3) my in-laws were coming for dinner in T-3 hours. But as is usually the case with me, the lure of making everything from scratch squelched any rational thinking.

Armed with Jennifer Perillo’s recipe that my friend Bethy had blogged about, I simmered milk, buttermilk and heavy cream, let it sit so the curds could develop and finally drained the whey from the curds.

Less than an hour after beginning the ricotta, I breathed a sigh of relief. Whew! It had worked! The ricotta was warm, creamy, rich, smooth, and delicious. The tart was successful and only on the table half an hour later than planned.

The ricotta recipe yielded more than I needed for the tart, so I incorporated it into meals and snacks throughout the week: scooped alongside oven-roasted peaches for dessert, smeared on bread with marmalade for a snack, and as a layer in these roasted vegetable bruschetta for a family party.

For this version of bruschetta, rub raw garlic onto toasted bread and top with a generous scoop of ricotta. Arrange roasted vegetables on top of the ricotta, sprinkle with feta and garnish with fresh basil. I roasted the vegetables in the oven, but you could probably save yourself some work by grilling them instead. And while you’re at it, double the amount of veggies and use them in my Farfalle with Grilled Vegetables and Fire Roasted Tomatoes recipe.

I may have been a little late to the homemade ricotta bandwagon, but I sure am glad I hopped on.

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Ingredients

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1” dice
2 colorful bell peppers, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds and stem removed
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1” dice
4 small-medium tomatoes, halved and seeded
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
coarse salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 bay leaves
one loaf of French or Italian bread, sliced
1 clove of garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, to brush bread
2 cups homemade ricotta
½ cup crumbled feta, to garnish
several basil leaves, to garnish

Prepare the Vegetables

Preheat oven to 450°F. For easy clean up, line a 9×13 inch pan with aluminum foil (or grease the pan well). Place the eggplant in the pan, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and stir to coat the pieces with olive oil. Roast the eggplant for about 15 minutes, remove from the oven and stir. Add the zucchini chunks and drizzle with more olive oil if needed. Stir and return to the oven. After 15 more minutes, stir the veggies again and check to see if they are soft, blistery and browned. If not, return to the oven and check every five minutes.

While the eggplant and zucchini are roasting, place the bell pepper halves cut-side down in a small roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Place them in the oven alongside the eggplant and zucchini and roast until skin blisters and begins to blacken, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove bell peppers from the oven and cover dish with aluminum foil. This helps steam the bell peppers and makes the skin easier to remove. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Remove foil from pan and use your hands to remove the skin from the bell peppers as best you can. Slice the bell peppers into strips and then into 1 inch chunks.

Place the tomatoes cut-side up on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until tomatoes are tender and being breaking down.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy skillet over low heat. Add the onions and bay leaves and sauté until soft and caramelized, at least 25 minutes. Stir frequently and add more oil as needed.

Alternatively, grill the vegetables until tender and slightly charred.

Assemble the Bruschetta

Toast the bread slices until golden brown either under the broiler, on a grill or in an electric toaster. Rub the raw garlic clove over the surface of the toast and brush with olive oil. Spread a generous amount of ricotta over each slice of toast and top with roasted vegetables and caramelized onions. Sprinkle a teaspoon of feta on each toast and garnish with fresh basil.

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.

Eat Your Colors: Kale, Carrot and Cabbage Salad

kale salad

Salads are one of my favorite things to make in the kitchen. First, there’s the obvious gratification of feeling healthy after eating a salad (which for some odd reason doesn’t happen after I eat cream puffs or chocolate mousse). The second reason I love making salads is that it’s an easy, low-risk way to be creative in the kitchen. When you’re baking, you can’t exactly say, Hmm, how about I throw in a few more eggs or some extra whole wheat flour? With salads, throwing in a little bit of this and that is the name of the game.

Get me some leafy greens

Another plus with making salads is that you get to play the part of artist, where color, shape and texture come from ordinary foods. Just check out the colors in this salad—the vibrant hues of purple and orange juxtaposed against a backdrop of green are positively fun and playful. And that’s only considering the salad’s visual appeal. Take a bite and your taste buds will confirm what your eyes suspected: There’s a whole lot of delicious going on between the crunchy cabbage, tart lime, piquant pepper, creamy avocado, sweet orange, and salty pepitas. (I do love me some adjectives!)

eat your colors

And let’s not forget the kale, the very foundation upon which this salad rests. Kale is my go-to antidote for any Quick! Get me some leafy greens! moments. I don’t mind eating raw kale, as in this other salad, but I know some people find kale’s texture a little tough to handle in a raw salad. Enter mixed baby kales, the newest member of the organic, boxed, pre-washed salad greens family. Baby kale is tender and kind of cute, a mini-me version of hearty Dino Kale and Curly Kale, and I’m convinced it will appease—nay, win over—the raw kale opposition party. With that I say, welcome to the salad bowl, baby kale!

This recipe was inspired by the Rainbow Kale Slaw and Kale, Carrot and Avocado Salad from the Whole Foods Recipes app.

Serves 2 (or one very hungry salad eater)

Ingredients

3 cups mixed baby kale
2 cups shredded red cabbage
1 carrot, shredded
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1 handful cilantro, chopped
1 orange, sectioned and cut into chunks
1 lime, juiced
1”-piece of serrano pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 avocado
a handful of pepitas (roasted, hulled pumpkin seeds), to garnish

Make the Kale, Carrot and Cabbage Salad

Combine the kale, cabbage, carrot, green onion, cilantro, and orange chunks in a very large salad bowl. If you use a bowl that is bigger than you need, it’s easier to toss the salad and incorporate the dressing.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, serrano pepper and salt and pepper to taste. Cut the avocado in half, remove the seed, and slice the flesh into cubes. (This video demonstrates how to cut an avocado.) Add the cubed avocado to the bowl and thoroughly coat with the dressing, which will prevent the avocado from browning. Pour the dressing and avocado over the salad greens. Using salad tongs, toss the salad to fully coat the leaves with dressing. Garnish with pepitas and serve immediately.

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