Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tuscan Bean Soup

Back in January we had our book club meeting to discuss the book Mona Lisa, A Life Discovered by Dianne Hales. The evening was filled with interesting conversation, some darn good food and some very nice Tuscan wines. For that night, I tried to make food that was predominately from Tuscany, where the book was based. In doing my research for the menu,  I found that food from Tuscany has a reputation for being nourishing, plain and simple, and beans are used extensively. I decided on a Bean Soup. I found the recipe on One of the women in our book group is gluten free. So this was perfect. Everyone loved this soup. Click here to see all the goodies we enjoyed.

I wanted to make the soup for Chris. The forecast was a repeat of the night of book club. Cold and snow. Yes it is almost spring and we are still getting snow! It was a perfect night for this soup. I left out the chicken, I wanted it to be a meatless meal and of course I left out the garlic (surprise!). I could imagine this type of soup being served back in the days of Mona Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo. But Idon't think she would not have used canned beans and tomatoes!

If I had not given up sweets for Lent I would have made the Olive Oil Cake that I made for the book club. That will have to wait until after Easter.

My version of Tuscan Bean Soup from

1 Medium onion (chopped)
1 stalk celery (chopped)
1 Large carrot (chopped)
 32 fl oz chicken stock
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
15oz canned garbanzo beans
15oz canned cannellini beans
15oz canned chopped tomatoes
1 cup water
1 cup Kale (Chopped)
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

Place onion, celery, and carrots into a large soup pot with 3 tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Stir frequently, cooking on medium high heat until onion is translucent. Add chicken broth and water to the vegetables and stir. Add canned, garbanzo beans, cannellini beans and tomatoes. Add all herbs and spices and turn down heat to simmer soup. Simmer for at least 15 minutes on low, then serve warm in bowls.

I am submitting this post the the Novel Food Event held at Briciole
I am looking forward to reading the other Novel Food entries. 
Might get ideas for future book club meetings!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Cheesy Stuffed Meatball Subs

Let's make this a short post tonight. I have to get ready for a little trip I am taking this weekend. Tonight we had Meatballs Stuffed with Fontina Cheese. 
Yes, stuffed with Fontina Cheese. You can see it oozing out of the meatballs in this photo. They were browned in the oven and than finished in a pan with Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter.
And we made sandwiches out of the meatballs with spreadable Parmesan cheese and Provolone cheese on sliced Italian bread. The meatballs, the sauce, the bread, the cheeses all added up to meal that was so delicious.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Spanish-Style Lentils with Spinach

Another recipe from Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything The Basics. This dinner got rave reviews! I was glad because we got to have lentils and spinach for dinner.

My version of Spanish-Style Lentils with Spinach-

2 tbsp olive oil
½ lb smoked chorizo, chopped
medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp paprika
1 c lentils, rinsed and picked over
2 bay leaves
½ c red wine
2 c water (or chicken or vegetable stock)
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper

Put the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When it is hot add the chorizo and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and the sausage begins to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the paprika and stir and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.

Stir in the lentils, bay leaves, wine and water, raise the heat to high and bring to a boil Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally and adding more water if necessary to keep the beans submerged, until the lentils are no longer crunchy but are still a little too firm to eat, 20 to 30 minutes. Fish out the bay leaves.

Stir in the spinach, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and keep cooking until the lentils are fully tender, the spinach is wilted and the mixture is saucy and thick, another 5 to 10 minutes. Adjusting the seasoning and serve.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Lasagna, My Way

As I was looking through Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything The Basics for recipes for this week I came upon his recipe for Lasagna. I had all the ingredients in the house. Perfect. My lasagna had a few extra things added. Yes I used meat sauce, I had a small container in the freezer. I also had a container of sauce from Chicken Cacciatore. And I had the end cut from the Roast from Christmas dinner. Yes I am attempting to clean out the freezer.

The result, well lets let the picture tell the story -

Monday, March 9, 2015

Barley Soup with Hearty Greens

This week's featured cookbook is Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything The Basics. Yes the Mark Bittman who recipes have been used on this blog 28 times. I just love his cooking, his writing and his videos. He even does a tribute to Charlie Chaplin in the beginning of some of his videos. What's not to like about this guy. And I do have a autographed copy of this book!

So tonight we start with Barley Soup with Hearty Greens. Super easy and wow it was delicious.
I love the texture of the barley. I opted for Swiss Chard for the green.

Barley Soup with Hearty Greens, from How To Cook Everything The Basics

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup pearled barley
7 cups chicken, beef or vegetable stock (I used chicken stock)
About 2 pounds hearty greens (I used kale and the leafy tops to a head of celery)

Put the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When it's hot, add the onion and cook stirring occasionally, until it's soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.

Add the barley and cook, stirring constantly to coat every grain in the fat, until it starts to toast and stick to the pot, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the liquid bubbles steadily. Cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the barley is almost tender  but still with a bit of crunch, 20 to 25 minutes. (My barley took a lot longer than 25 minutes but came out perfect). Add up to 1 cup of water if the soup looks too dry.

Meanwhile, separate the leaves of the greens for the stems. Keep the leaves and stems separate and roughly chop both.

When the barley is just tender, turn the heat medium-high, uncover the pot and add the stems. Bring the soup to a boil, and add the leaves, then lower the heat so the mixture bubbles steadily again. Cover and cook until the barley is fully tender but not mushy and the greens are bright colored and tender, another  5 to 10 minutes. Adjust the seasoning, add another 1 or 2 tablespoons olive and serve.

And as if the soup was not amazing enough, we had some leftovers from the Muffaletta Pinwheel Steaks we had on Saturday night. I popped them in the microwave for 2 minutes. We made little sandwiches! We used the spreadable Parmesan Cheese on Italian bread. The steak and cheese and the olive salad! I wish I took photos! They were as delicious as the other night, if not better!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Zuppa Arcidossana

This is one of my favorite meals. I do not make it often enough. It is truly comfort on a plate. The sausage is browned and perfectly cooked. The onions and carrots melt in your mouth. And the bread, well that just makes it all so much better. This recipe came from a Mark Bittman New York Times article. I made it for the first time back 2009. It is delicious and we both went back for seconds.


2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
1 cup 1/2-inch-diced carrots
1 large onion, chopped
Salt and black pepper
1 cup stale bread (use coarse, country-style bread), cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 pound spinach, trimmed, washed and roughly chopped
1/2 cup feta
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley

1. Put oil in a large pot or deep skillet and brown sausage over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. When sausage is cooked through and leaving brown bits in pan, add carrots and onion continue to cook until vegetables begin to soften and brown, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Add bread to pan and stir for a minute or 2; add spinach and continue cooking just until it wilts, a couple of minutes.
3. Add about 2 cups water and stir to loosen any remaining brown bits from pan. This is more of a stew than a soup, but there should be some broth, so add another cup of water if necessary. When broth is consistency of thin gravy, ladle stew into serving bowls and top with cheese and some freshly chopped parsley if you have it. Serve immediately.

I am taking a trip to Maryland next weekend and did some baking for the trip...

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Muffaletta Pinwheel Steaks

Thank you to the Proud Italian Cook Blog for providing and sharing this recipe. Yes it was delicious. Yes Chris liked it. Would I make it again... Yes! The filling had quite a few of my favorite things in it. But I did not get the Hot Capicola, seems like I picked up 2 packages of Mortadella by mistake. Actually the next time I make this I will omit the Mortadella, one of us is not a big fan. But I would use sweet and hot Capicola. Click Here to view the original recipe at the Proud Italian Cook blog. And once you are at that blog prepare to check out a lot of other amazing recipes.

For side dishes I roasted asparagus and made Near East Parmesan Couscous. We have not had that in a very long time.