Category:Quick!’

Red Pepper and Orzo Soup

 - by Elizabeth

OrzoRdPepperSoup_1

Think of this as a snappier version of tomato rice soup; the amount of pasta used here is just enough to temper the peppers’ bite.  I have modified this recipe from one I found in the Washington Post.

roasting red peppers_1

before

roasting red peppers_2

after 15-20 minutes under broiler’s high heat

roasting red peppers_3

all wrapped up to steam for a while

Serve with a loaf of Mary’s Retreat Bread.

Servings: Tested size: 3-4 servings; makes 3 1/2 to 4 cups

Ingredients
1 medium shallot
1 clove garlic
5-6 red roasted peppers (directions below) ***
2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for optional garnish
3-1/2 to 4 cups chicken broth (you get to determine the texture: soupy or thick)
1/2 cup dried orzo pastaIMG_3739

Spices for Soup_1 Spices for Soup_2
Spices to Taste:
wave of Arizona Dreaming, Sate, Smoked Paprika and [optional] a pinch of lemon-salt (use a shake of Kosher salt and 1 tsp. lemon rind, as substitute)
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (also called “chili” flakes)

NOTE: Arizona Dreaming is my new go-to spice.  Get yourself a jar.

Directions
Peel and coarsely chop the shallot and garlic. Prepare the red peppers by broiling the seeded, washed halves for 15 minutes under high broiler heat on a prepared pan (line with tin foil).  Wrap the whole pan in foil, and let the peppers cool while they continue to steam and melt into goodness, about 30 minutes. Alternatively, you could put them into a covered bowl, and go that route.  Peel off the blackened skins and discard.

Heat half of the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the shallot and garlic. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, until just softened.

Add the red peppers and broth; if your peppers weren’t soft after the broiling stage, let them cook a bit more in the hot broth until tender.  Using a stick blender, puree the peppers/broth until smooth. Add the spices listed above.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then stir in the orzo. Cook for 7 to 9 minutes or until the orzo is tender and more visible in the pot, stirring often to keep it from sticking to the bottom. Add more broth, if needed. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed, using spices listed above.  You can also add a Tablespoon of lemon juice to pop things up, if needed.

Red Pepper Orzo Soup_2

 

Also good with slices of avocado, if you like that sort of thing, or a really good sandwich.  We also added cubes of cooked ham, a carryover from another meal.

Other garnishes possible:
2 tablespoons pine nuts, for garnish
1 tablespoon grated pecorino Romano cheese
1 cup baby spinach
few leaves fresh basil

***COOK’S NOTE: To make this quickly, use two jars of roasted red peppers from Trader Joe’s instead of roasting up your own peppers.  Drain, then use in the recipe instead of the home-done peppers.

Panzanella

 - by Elizabeth

PanzanellaI’ve made all types of panzanella, but I think this recipe is really fabulous.  I was traveling in Scandinavia, where the travel author Rick Steves says their favorite vegetable is a potato, and began thinking of my garden back home, wondering how many tomatoes would be ready to pick when I returned.  In scanning the news one morning, The Washington Post published this recipe and I couldn’t wait to try it.  So the first thing I did when we climbed out of our car after our long trip was to check the garden for tomatoes.  But to my horror, the irrigation systems had been shut off while we gone, and my garden experienced the full force of 100+ degree temperatures: it was crispy and no tomatoes.  So I used some high-quality tomatoes from Costco for this dish and it was still good.  I can only imagine what it would have been with my own.

I purchased a sour dough loaf from Trader Joe’s for the bread, cutting off nearly half of to keep to the 8-ounce requirement.

Recipe adapted from recipes by chef-restaurateur Fabio Trabocchi of Fiola, and from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, culinary director of SeriousEats.com.

Ingredients
3 cups packed, torn pieces sourdough bread (including crusts; from an 8-ounce loaf)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/4 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes, hulled and cut into bite-size wedges
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Freshly cracked black pepper
10 fresh basil leaves, stacked, rolled and cut into very thin slices (chiffonade)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Arrange the bread pieces on a rimmed baking sheet, then drizzle half of the oil over them and toss to coat. Bake for 15 minutes, until the bread is dried and fragrant but not browned. Let cool.

Meanwhile, place the tomatoes in a colander set over a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the teaspoon of salt; let them drain for about 20 minutes (no more), gently tossing them every few minutes. Transfer the tomatoes to a serving bowl along with the cooled bread pieces; toss to incorporate. Reserve the tomato juices in their bowl; there should be a scant half-cup. [Note: I had more, and used it all.]

Add the garlic, shallot and vinegar to those juices, then gradually whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to form an emulsified vinaigrette. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Pour over the tomato-bread mixture; use your clean hands to gently toss and coat.

Scatter the basil over the salad; serve right away.

Pasta with Burst Cherry Tomatoes

 - by Elizabeth

IMG_6033This recipe, found on the New York Times’ Recipe Site is a total winner, if you’ve got cherry tomatoes going gangbusters in the garden, which I do.  Melissa Clark made hers with red tomatoes, but I always plant the little golden plum cherry tomatoes and they keep going when all the other toms in the garden have given up because of the heat.  While she calls for fusilli pasta, any small shaped pasta will do.  I adjusted the ratio of tomato mixture to pasta, using a little bit less pasta than she called for.  Lastly, my garden’s mint wasn’t producing, so I omitted that as well, but I’m looking forward to trying it!

IMG_60311 pound fusilli pasta
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
6 ounces pancetta, preferably thick cut, diced (available at Trader Joe’s)
4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Fine sea salt and black pepper, as needed
1 quart cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
3 tablespoons butter
Fresh ricotta cheese, for serving (optional)
3 cups whole mint leaves, torn (I didn’t use)
4 scallions, preferably red scallions for color, thinly sliced
Flaky sea salt, to finish

PREPARATION

  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until 1 minute shy of al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat for 15 seconds, then add the oil and heat until it thins out and easily coats the pan when swirled. Add pancetta and cook until it starts to render its fat, about 2 minutes. Add garlic, red pepper flakes and a large pinch of salt and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until they burst, turn golden at the edges and shrivel up slightly, about 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. Add pasta to pan and toss with tomato-pancetta mixture; if the mixture looks dry add a little pasta cooking water a few tablespoons at a time. Cook over high heat until the pasta finishes cooking in the sauce. Add the butter and toss until it melts and coats everything.
  4. Divide pasta among warmed pasta bowls. Garnish with dollops of ricotta if desired, and top with a generous mound of fresh mint and scallions. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and more pepper before serving.

Zucchini Pasta

 - by Elizabeth

IMG_5831

This dish came about because we had too much zucchini in our garden.  Well — instead of too much — a bounteous harvest of zucchini.  I found this recipe on the New York Times website, and followed it pretty much to the letter.

Ingredients
2 pounds zucchini
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

¼
cup freshly grated Parmesan, for serving (more to taste)
¼ cup (approximately) light cream
IMG_5826
Wash several zucchini from the garden; pat dry.  Slice off lengthwise ribbons of zucchini, using a vegetable peeler.  Peel off several ribbons from one side, then turn the zucchini and peel off more ribbons. Continue to turn and peel off ribbons until you get to the seeds at the core of the zucchini. Discard the core. You can also do this on a mandolin, adjusted to a very thin slice.
IMG_5829
Heat 1 Tablespoon of the oil in a large non-stick pan, over medium-high heat, and when it is hot, add about half of the zucchini ribbons, salt and pepper.  Toss and cook, keeping the zucchini in motion until it is just soft and barely transluscent, but not browned (about 2-3 minutes).  Set aside, and cook the second batch.IMG_5830Put both batches back in the pan, and pour over a little bit of cream, then add the grated cheese, again tossing lightly over medium heat.  Adjust salt and add freshly ground pepper to taste, and transfer to a serving dish.We topped ours with a fresh bruschetta-type tomato sauce.

Judy’s Tomato Soup

 - by Elizabeth

Tom Soup1 Tomatoes

This tomato soup had its origins in a basketfull of tomatoes from our garden, and the winter delivery of a care package from my friend Judy, who is an amazing cook.  In her little dish was the best fresh tomato soup I’ve tasted, and it wasn’t until I was laid up with some surgery that she finally relinquished the recipe.Tomatoes prepped

Wash and cut in half a number of Roma-type tomatoes; no need to core.  Lay them skin-side down on a foil-lined rimmed cookie sheet or a broiler pan.  If you have eating tomatoes, cut those into approximate sized chunks.  Add one onion, chunked.  Squish three cloves of garlic over the tomatoes.  Drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil, and then liberally salt and pepper the tomatoes.Tomatoes roasted

Bake in a preheated oven at 425 for 40 minutes, until they are tender and even a little bit cooked down.

Place in a pot, and drizzle over some good-quality balsamic vinegar (about 1/4 cup).  With a stick blender, whir the mixture smooth, adding chicken broth as needed to bring it to soup consistency (probably about 3/4 to 1 cup of broth).

Now adjust for flavor.  Some things I usually add are:
fresh basil, snipped
heavy pinch of red pepper flakes
salt (to taste)
pepper
and if I have no fresh basil, I add about 2 Tbls homemade pesto.

Some garnishes are:
chunks of avocado
croutons
Hatch chiles, if they are in season (roast on BBQ, remove skins)

Tom Soup Garnishes Tom Soup withi Garnish

We roasted our tomatoes and onion, then placed them in a gallon-sized resealable bag and placed it in the freezer.  To prepare, we thawed the tomatoes and proceeded with the soup, as above. Tom Soup2

Mushrooms and Soy over Noodles

 - by Elizabeth

Soy and Mushroom Dish

Recipe adapted from Chris Jaeckle, All’onda, New York.
Published March 2014 in the New York Times
Further adaptations from Sam Sifton, and then further adapted in my kitchen.

Mushrooms and Soy wNoodles

Lemon Pappardelle pasta

TOTAL TIME: 35 minutes
Put the water on to boil for the a Lemon Paparadelle noodles from Trader Joe’s or use any high quality flat noodle that is at least 1/2″ wide. In between all other tasks, cook the noodles to al dente and the let them drain. Just before combining with the mushrooms, run hot water over them to freshen and unstick, the let drain again. Or, just get the timing down so the noodles are ready when the mushrooms are.

sliced mushrooms

FOR THE MUSHROOMS
About 20-30 ounces of mushrooms, thinly sliced (It’s better with a combination of mushrooms, such as Golden Oak, Crimini and Shiitakke, but it’s still quite good with just white mushrooms and crimini.) I do not measure, but when combining the mushrooms at the end, most go into the mixture, but some might be held back for another day. You be the judge.

Roughly 6 ounces cold butter, cut into 2 tablespoon pats
3 ounces butter ( for finishing)
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed through a press (or minced)
1/2 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon low-salt soy sauce
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

PREPARATION

  1. So as to not crowd the mushrooms as they cook,work in batches to cook them. For each batch, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a sauté pan set over high heat until it has melted. Add 1/2 pressed clove of garlic, then about 2 -3 cups of mushrooms, and sauté 3 to 4 minutes, turning until browned, tossing frequently, until mushrooms are coated with butter and start to wilt slightly. The ratio is more important than the quantity (a small amount of butter and garlic to the mushrooms), so if your pan is smaller, use fewer mushrooms. Remove to a bowl, then repeat until all mushrooms have been cooked. Remove last batch to the bowl.
  2. Add the beef broth to the pan deglaze the surface, using a wooden spoon to scrape at the browned bits. Allow the stock to reduce by half, then turn the heat to medium-low and add the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter, whisking to combine, followed by the soy sauce, cream and olive oil. Allow mixture to cook until it thickens a little, then remove from heat. Taste for seasoning, adding black pepper, if desired.
  3. Add the mushrooms to this, tossing to coat as well as incorporate any accumulated juices (can drain those out earlier into soy mixture if desired).
  4. Put the warm noodles in a warmed bowl, then top with mushrooms and the sauce. Serve immediately.

Summer Pasta Salad

 - by Elizabeth

Summer Pasta Salad with Asparagus and Tomatoes

Even though I call this Summer Pasta Salad, asparagus is typically a spring vegetable.  But I always make some version of this just as the heat begins to creep into our days, as it’s easy and delicious.  Add some bread, and bowl of fruit for dessert and dinner’s done.

Ingredients
1 lb. package of high quality cheese-filled tortellini
about 8 ounces of golden cherry tomatoes (2-3 handfuls)
about 8 ounces of sweet red pearl-like tomatoes
bunch of asparagus, about 15 spears
pitted black Greek olives, about 10 very large ones, or 20 medium
extra-virgin olive oil
good quality balsamic vinegar
red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
a light shake of cayenne pepper

Method
Toss the tomatoes with some olive oil and some salt and pepper, then spread out on a rimmed cookie sheet and bake at 425F for 15 minutes.  The tomatoes should still have their shape but be a little wobbly-looking.  Set aside to cool.

Blanched Asparagus

Wash, then prepare asparagus by snapping off the ends.  Hold your fingers at the end of the spear, letting it snap off where it wants to, then cut into 1″ pieces.  Cook in a gently simmering pot of salted water for 1 minute, then plunge into an ice-water bath to stop the cooking.  They should have some chewiness to them, but not crunchiness.  I always test first as some batches can take up to two minutes to be at the right texture.  To do that, grab one piece and put it in the ice water bath, then taste.

After each batch, place cooled asparagus to drain in a strainer or colander, then set aside.

Cooking Tortellini

Cook the pasta in lightly salted water on a gentle boil until done, but not DEAD-done.  You don’t want the pasta to fall apart.  Tip into a colander in the sink and rinse with cool water. GENTLY.

In a large bowl, place drained pasta, tomatoes, blanched asparagus, Greek olives.  Splash more olive oil on the mix, then some balsamic and some red wine vinegar (about 2-4 Tablespoons combined for the vinegars) then grind on some fresh pepper and salt, then a light sprinkle of cayenne..  Toss gently, then taste.  Adjust as needed.

Serves a crowd.

Fennel and Blood Orange Salad

 - by Elizabeth

Fennel Blood Orange Salad

I found this on Smitten Kitchen, who found it on the New York Times.  When I went looking for my typed file today, I found that it had been published in 2002.  I can’t believe it took me that long to finally try it and put it up here on the blog.  Well, don’t you wait that long.  It’s easy and quick and has miles and miles of flavor.

FENNEL AND BLOOD ORANGE SALAD
By Kurt Gutenbrunner
Published: January 23, 2002
Time: 30 minutes

1/4 cup very coarsely chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon walnut oil
1 medium-large fennel bulb, leaves and stems trimmed off
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
2 large blood oranges
1 tablespoon paper-thin shallot slices
10 mint leaves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lime zest

1. Place walnuts in dry skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring, to toast. Toss with walnut oil, and set aside.

2. Slice about 1/2 inch from bottom of fennel and discard. Slice fennel very fine on mandoline, starting with flat bottom side. Put in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and add lemon juice.Fennel Blood Orange Salad_1

3. Trim all peel and pith from oranges. Holding peeled fruit over bowl containing fennel, use sharp knife to cut sections from membrane. Let them drop into bowl. Squeeze remaining membrane over bowl to add remainder of juice. Discard membrane.  (This is how it looks before tossing it with everything else.)

4. Add shallots, mint leaves, olive oil and reserved walnuts. Toss gently. Sprinkle on lime zest, and serve perhaps as a first course with smoked salmon or as a side dish with grilled fish..

Yield: 3 servings.

 

Tortellini en Brodo

 - by Elizabeth

Translated, this means tortellini in broth.

We arrived in Bologna on a rainy October night, and asked the hotel desk for a dinner recommendation.  Da Nello, he said.  A restaurant just off the main square.  And then he said, “Tortellini en Brodo is very good.  My favorite this time of year.”  Apparently this soup is served when the weather turns cold, and since Bologna is the birthplace of the tortellini, I thought I should try it.

This is a photo of the soup that night.  They brought me this steaming bowl of tortellini and a jar of grated Parmesan cheese, which the server indicated that I should sprinkle over the top.  The tortellini were very small–about the size of my thumbnail and chewy rather than soft.  I doubted this serving would fill me up, but by the end, I was happy, warm and in possession of a new traditional recipe.

We found the food in the Emilia-Romaga region to be simple, yet incredibly flavorful.  I think it is because they use very high quality ingredients.  So when you prepare this ready-in-ten-minutes soup and because there are only three elements, be sure to use high quality ingredients.

Ingredients
1 quart low-salt chicken broth, good quality. [Note: I use Swanson’s and have good results.]
1 8 oz. package fresh tortellini from the grocer’s, often found near the deli section

Preparation
Heat the broth to a low bubbling boil, then slide in the tortellini.  Cook for 5-8 minutes until pasta is tender (but don’t overcook).  Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese (not the stuff in the green bottle–use high quality, please).

Mediterranean Chicken

 - by Elizabeth

This dish hails originally from Martha and I pretty much make it like she says, but don’t worry so much about the proportions.  If I think it needs more tomatoes, I add a few.  Likewise with the olives.  This goes together quickly and is good for a crowd.  Once I served it to over 50 people, and they all liked it (although I did see a few olives left on plates–guess they didn’t like those).

Cook’s Note: Like I’ve said before, I think the chicken breasts these days are beyond one person’s serving size, so I “fillet” them into thirds by slicing them on the diagonal, with the blade closer to horizontal than vertical.

This is the yield from two chicken breasts.  While the recipe originally called for 4 chicken breasts, I find that by filleting the chicken and leaving the amounts of the vegetable mixture the same, this will feed four nicely.

Ingredients:
2 cups grape tomatoes (1 pint)  *I like to cut some of mine in half, the long-way. I have used Roma tomatoes cut into large thumb-sized chunks and that works just fine too.  Different flavor, though.*
16 Kalamata olives, pitted and drained *The ones from the grocery store are bigger than the ones from Trader Joe’s, so use 20-25 of the Trader Joe’s olives.*
3 Tablespoons drained capers
3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (although Martha calls for chicken breasts with skin)
Salt and Pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Toss tomatoes, olives, capers and 2 Tablespoons oil together in a medium bowl.

Rinse chicken and pat dry.  Season both sides with salt and pepper.  Heat a large skillet over high hot until hot.  Add 1 Tablespoon oil and heat until hot, but not smoking.  Place chicken in skillet; cook until golden brown, then turn chicken over to sear the backside briefly.

Place chicken in oven-proof baker.  Add tomato mixture all around.  Roast until chicken is cooked through and tomatoes have softened, about 18 minutes.

Note: Martha says to use an oven-proof skillet, then you can just add the tomato mixture to the pan and pop that in the oven.  Now you have options.