I think it’s probably very likely that for many Midwesterners like myself, their first exposure to pasta e fagioli was at The Olive Garden. Unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks can’t be beat! Even if your culinary tastes are somewhat more refined these days, this is a hearty, healthy (and cheap) soup that’s great with crusty bread or toast!
- 100 g bacon lardons (thick cut bacon cut into strips)
- 2 TB olive oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 stalks celery, finely diced
- 3 carrots, peeled and medium diced
- 400 g can of tomato sauce
- 150 g chopped frozen spinach
- 1/4 tsp fennel seed
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp rosemary
- 1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- 500 ml chicken or vegetable broth
- 1200 ml water
- 400 g cannellini or Santa Pau beans
- 1 cup small pasta
- secret ingredient: parmesan rind (optional – when I finish a wedge of parmesan cheese I chuck it in a ziploc in the freezer)
Brown the bacon in a large pot (I use a 5.5 liter pot) over medium high heat. When the bacon is browned, swirl in the olive oil, reduce the heat to medium and sauté the onions until they start to become translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the celery and carrot and cook until they start to become soft, about 10 min.
Add the red pepper flakes, herbs, tomato sauce, spinach, broth and water. Chuck that parmesan rind in if you have it! Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 min. Add the beans and allow to gently simmer for 10 more minutes. Adjust for salt and pepper. Finally, add the pasta and simmer until al dente.
Serve with bread and grated parmesan.
Another winter, another lentil recipe. This is a pretty traditional “lentejas con chorizo” recipe, if you make a double batch it freezes really well.
Adapted from Recetas de Rechupete
- 250 g pardina lentils, rinsed
- 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large onion, chopped finely
- 1/2 red pepper, chopped finely
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika)
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika (or half sweet, half hot)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 400 g can of tomato sauce
- 2 TB tomato paste
- 100 g Spanish spicy chorizo, skin removed and cut into 1/2″ pieces
- olive oil
Sauté the onions and garlic over medium heat in a couple of good glugs of olive oil until they start to soften. Add the carrots and red pepper and sauté for 5 minutes or so, until the carrots start to soften slightly. Add the lentils and chorizo and fry them in the oil and vegetables for a few minutes, until the chorizo starts to render fat. Add in the bay leaves, paprikas, tomato paste and tomato sauce. Add three sauce cans’ worth of water and stir. Salt and pepper to taste. Allow the lentils to simmer over medium heat for approximately 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and carrots are tender.
Err, so this summer’s menu has consisted mostly of mini Weetabix and BLT sandwiches. Not that I haven’t had time to cook, but baking a baby (we’re almost there!), moving house and scorching temperatures sucked all the energy out of me. I have made one thing on the regular because it takes less than 30 minutes start to finish and is oh-so-delicious and decadent. It ain’t cheap to make, but when the rest of your meals are bowls of cereal it averages out.
I’ve adapted this recipe from Jamie Oliver; he describes it as a starter, but we usually eat it as a main summer salad for two. I bulk it out with more greens and use jamón ibérico instead of parma ham, which c’mon, we all know is the best thing ever.
- 4 peaches
- quality olive oil
- sea salt (flakes if you got ’em)
- cracked pepper
- 1/2 lemon
- 125 g ball of buffalo mozzarella
- 100 g jamón ibérico
- 125 g arugula or mesclun
- a couple of sprigs of mint, leaves picked
Pre-heat the oven (top + bottom elements) to 200ºC/450ºF. Vertically halve and destone the peaches, then lie them cut-side up in a snug-fitting roasting tray. Drizzle with oil, a bit of salt, slide into the hot oven and roast for 20 minutes, or until charred and sticky. Keep an eye on them and rotate the tray for even cooking.
In the meantime, squeeze the juice of half a lemon, double as much olive oil, sea salt and pepper to taste into a jar with a sealable lid and shake-shake-shake. Usually when the peaches are done roasting I add a tablespoon or two of the peach juices from the pan to the jar, the sugar from the juice helps emulsify the dressing.
Divide the greens on plates, lie the peaches cut side up on the greens, tear the mozzarella up and pop a chunk on top of each peach. Arrange the jamón around the salad and drizzle the whole lot with the dressing. Sprinkle the mint leaves on top and serve straight away.
Servings: Two as a main meal or four as a starter.
Another week, another bread recipe. This is my current bread star, because after wrapping my head around artisanal loaves I wanted to make “regular” bread for the sandwich lover in the house. Joel goes through about one loaf a week for toast and sandwiches. This recipe, adapted from King Arthur Flour fits the bill; it’s soft, fluffy and makes great toast. It’s also hella easy and makes two loaves: one to eat and one to freeze. I’ve made it several times to adjust the flavors and to make sure my metric conversions were accurate. It’s considerably less sweet than the original recipe, which in my opinion makes it a bit more all-purpose. The instructions are also slightly different because I don’t use a bread machine/Kitchen Aid nor do I have much patience for kneading. The stretch and fold (envelope) method works just fine.
- 450 ml boiling water (or 410 boiling + 40 ml tepid water to dissolve fresh yeast)
- 100 g rolled oats
- 30 g brown sugar
- 10 g honey
- 45 g sunflower oil or 56 g melted butter
- 15 g salt
- 180 g whole wheat flour
- 470 g white flour
- 1 cake fresh yeast or 9.5 g instant yeast
In a large mixing bowl, combine the boiling water, oats, maple, brown sugar, honey, oil or butter, and salt. Let cool to lukewarm, about 10 to 15 minutes.
If using fresh yeast, dissolve in tepid water and then mix in with the oatmeal (or sift instant yeast with the flours). Add the flours to the oatmeal mix, stir until a rough dough forms and there’s no loose flour, then pat into a ball. Cover with cling film and let rest for 20 minutes. Tip the dough out onto an oiled surface and give it 8 envelope folds, form it into a ball and drop it seam side down into the bowl. Cover and let rise 30 minutes, tip out the dough give it 8 more folds. Return the dough ball to the bowl and allow to rise 30 more minutes. The dough should become quite puffy since it’s warm.
Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a loaf. Place the loaves in two 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ (900 g) bread pans. Cover the pans with cling film and allow the loaves to rise until they’ve crowned about 2 cm over the rim of the pan, about 60 to 90 minutes.
Bake the loaves on the middle rack in a preheated 177ºC/350°F oven (bottom element only) for about 40 minutes. Remove them from the oven when they’re golden brown. Turn the loaves out onto a rack to cool. Store at room temperature, well-wrapped, for several days; freeze for longer storage.
Yield: 2 sandwich loaves, 32 slices total, 104 calories per slice.
Alas, it’s been so long between posts, between life/school/family/work I don’t have as much time as I’d like to be witty. I still cook every day but I rarely get around to documenting my recipes. So for the time being you’ll have to do without banter, just ingredients + instructions. My old flatmate used to bring this dense, flavorful bread back from Portugal, and I’ve made this a few times now – if you can’t finish the whole loaf, grind it up for breadcrumbs and use it to top macaroni and cheese, you won’t be disappointed.
- 225 ml boiling water
- 175 g corn meal
- 1. 5 tsp (8 g) sea salt
- 10 g brown sugar
- 1 TB olive oil
- 7 g instant yeast or 1/2 cake fresh yeast dissolved in 65 ml tepid water
- 200 g white flour
- 50 g rye flour
Mix cornmeal, salt, sugar and 1 TB oil in a large bowl, stir in boiling water and allow to cool to lukewarm, stirring occasionally. Dissolve the yeast in the tepid water and stir into cornmeal mix. Gradually add flours, stirring until well mixed. Form the dough into a ball, cover and let rest for 20 minutes.
Tip the dough ball out onto an oiled counter top and fold 8 times (see this video for the stretch and fold method), form back into a ball and return to the bowl. Cover and let rise for an hour. After the bulk rise, tip the dough onto an oiled counter top and stretch and fold 4 times, then shape into a boule, and leave on the counter covered with cling film or a towel. Leave it to rise while the oven heats.
Heat the oven (bottom element only) for 30 minutes to 225ºC/450ºF with a cast iron pot inside. Remove the pot’s cover, carefully place the boule inside and bake for 25 minutes with the cover on. Remove the cover, rotate the pot and bake for 20 more minutes until the bread is dark golden.
Carefully remove and let cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes before slicing and eating. Bread is easier to slice when it’s cool.
Side note: If you are new to baking I recommend http://www.thefreshloaf.com for tips and videos on how to prepare, shape and bake bread.
It’s nearly that time of year again! Joel actually remarked to me yesterday that he’s tired of summer now and would like for it to be colder. A definite case of “beware of what you wish for!” But I tend to agree if only in that I am really hankering for some fall/winter food. It’s time for stews, casseroles, roasted vegetables and other hearty comfort food. It seems like everyone’s got a recipe for white chicken chili (my mom’s is particularly tasty) but this incarnation is a product of cupboard-scouring. Since most of the ingredients are staples (in my house at least) it makes for a quick and healthy mid-week supper.
- 500 g chicken breast, cut into 2″ chunks
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 Italian green peppers (cubanelle peppers), de-seeded and diced
- small tin (200 g) of pickled jalapeños, drained and roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp sweet pimentón (paprika)
- 1/2 tsp smoked pimentón
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 500 ml chicken stock
- large jar (500 g) white beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup (250 ml) frozen corn kernels
Heat the oil over medium heat in a soup pot or dutch oven. Lightly sauté the onions, garlic and green peppers just until they start to become soft. Stir in the jalapeños, herbs and spices. Add the raw chicken and the stock. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken chunks with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl to cool slightly. Add the corn and beans to the pot and continue to simmer. When the chicken has cooled, shred the meat with your fingers and add back to the pot. Add a bit more stock/water as necessary to achieve desired consistency. Simmer for another 15 minutes over medium-low heat, occasionally stirring gently so you don’t beat up the beans. Adjust salt/pepper to taste. Serve on its own or with a bit of shredded cheddar or sour cream.
Servings: Four generous bowls. 449 calories (without added cheese, etc.)
As you may have gathered, we like lentils in this family. It’s just that they are so versatile, and cheap, and healthy! I like the peppery flavor of Du Puy (French green) lentils. Continuing on from the vichyssoise we have another a French-inspired summer dish. It’s great to make ahead and goes nicely with some grilled tarragon chicken. If you Google tarragon chicken you’ll find approximately eight jillion recipes. Adapted from Epicurious.
Put lentils in a small sauce pan and cover with 2 inches of water. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes until they are tender but not falling apart, rinse carefully with cool water and drain well. Put lentils back in the saucepan and stir in 1 tablespoon vinegar and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
Put dry couscous and another pinch of salt in a large bowl. Bring water to boil on the stove top (I use an electric kettle, much faster). Pour water over couscous and stir with a fork, then cover and let rest for 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon oil and cool completely.
In a small bowl (or in the mortar you used to mash the garlic) whisk together garlic paste, remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar, remaining 3 tablespoons oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir lentils and dressing into couscous. Chill salad, covered, for 45-60 minutes (or overnight if you really want to make-ahead). After this time stir in the remaining ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill additional 30 minutes and give the salad a squeeze of fresh lemon juice right before serving.
Servings: Six. 260 calories.
So I wanted an alternative to gazpacho (and I don’t mean swapping cucumber for watermelon, etc., been there/done that. Delicious, but.) that screamed springtime, and here it is. I’ve made this vichyssoise a couple of times now, it’s a winner. I think it’s best just a bit chillier than room temperature, however I brought some to work to share with my pal/colleague Becky and we agreed it’s also lovely warm. Adapted from this easy peasy recipe at foodandwine.com.
- 2 leeks, white & light green parts, rinsed well (watch that sand!) and sliced
- 2 tsp olive oil + 1 tsp unsalted butter
- 1 bunch green asparagus (400-500 g.) woody ends cut off and chopped into 1″ chunks
- 2 medium yellow-skinned potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
- 1 thyme sprig (fresh or dried)
- a pinch of fennel seeds (use seeds, not fresh fennel or it overpowers the asparagus)
- 500 ml broth (chicken or vegetable)
- sea salt to taste
- 200-250 ml milk
- freshly ground pepper (5 peppercorn blend is nice)
- freshly snipped chives and olive oil, to serve
Melt the butter/olive oil in a large saucepan.Add the leeks and cook over medium heat, stirring until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus stalks, potatoes, broth, water, fennel, thyme and a good grating of pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
Take the soup off the heat source and let it cool down a bit. Discard the thyme sprig. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Add the milk and blend again, adding a bit more milk depending on the consistency you prefer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let the soup cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight. Take soup out of fridge and allow to come to just below room temperature before serving.
Ladle into bowls and drizzle with just a bit of a nice cold-pressed olive oil and freshly snipped chives.
Servings: Four generous bowls. 125 calories
I’m going through some of the things I’ve made recently but haven’t posted, so there will probably be another flurry of activity for a few days and then silence again for months, sorry!
Minestrone is a hearty and healthy soup that’s easy to whip up mid-week. The wee bit of pancetta adds a nice smoky touch, but if you’re a veggie leave it out and you’ll be none the wiser.
- 50 grams of pancetta, diced (or tiras de beicon)
- 1 tb olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 leek, washed and sliced
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 100 grams fresh or frozen chopped spinach
- 2 400 g cans of tomato puree (triturado)
- 1 jar white beans (mongetes or cannelli, whatever you can get your hands on), drained and rinsed
- 1/2 liter of chicken stock
- 1 tsp each of dried oregano, basil and thyme
- bay leaf
- black pepper and sea salt, to taste
Heat a soup pot over medium heat, add a lug of olive oil and the pancetta/bacon, fry the bacon until it starts to brown, then add in the leeks and onion. Scrape up the bits of browned bacon that have become stuck to the bottom of the pot and continue to sauté until the onion starts becoming translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute, until you can smell the garlic frying. Add the carrots, celery, zucchini and cook slowly for 10 minutes until the veggies start to soften. Add in the spinach, tomato puree, herbs and stock and bring to a boil. Gently stir in the beans and lower heat to medium-low. Cover the pot and allow to simmer for 30 minutes. Adjust seasoning with pepper and salt to taste.
Serve with grated parmesan and fresh chopped herbs (if you’ve got any) and some nice crusty bread.
Servings: Six, 190 calories (without cheese).
Okay, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. I have kept cooking, promise! We all get into our ruts though, and recently wanted to shake things up. I’ve recently-ish discovered harissa paste, and it’s now my new favorite ingredient. The couscous is an easy one-pan meal and you can chop up the salad ingredients while it’s cooking. I also make a spicy-cool (oxymoron?) yogurt sauce that’s makes a wonderful accompaniment. It makes quite a large quantity of food, but this is definitely one of those better-the-next-day dishes. Enjoy!
- 400 g. chicken breast, cubed
- 2 medium red onions, chopped
- 1 TB olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- pinch ground nutmeg
- pinch ground cinnamon
- ground black pepper or five-peppercorn blend, to taste
- chunk of fresh ginger (about the size of your thumb), peeled and grated
- 2 tsp harissa paste
- small can (200 g approx) garbanzos, drained and rinsed
- 200 g couscous
- 450 ml chicken stock
- a handful (1/3 cup) of sultanas or golden raisins
- small handful (1/4 cup) salted sunflower seeds
- zest of one lemon
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 3-4 ripe tomatoes
- 2 cucumbers
- red pepper
- large handful fresh mint leaves, chopped
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) greek yogurt
- 1/2 tsp harissa paste
- juice of half a lime
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a deep frying pan. Sauté the onions until they start to soften then add in the chicken and garlic. Cook the chicken and onions for about 5 minutes. At this point add in the harissa paste, grated ginger and spices. Stir to coat the chicken and onion mix with the spices. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in the chickpeas (gently – don’t smush them) and let cook for another minute. Pour the couscous, raisins and sunflower seeds over the chicken mix. Pour the stock over and stir once, then cover the pan with a lid or tin foil and leave to sit for 10 minutes, until the couscous has soaked up all the stock. Remove the lid and sprinkle the lemon zest over the couscous and then fluff the mix up with a fork. Cover the pan back up and let rest until ready to serve.
To make the salad: Chop the red pepper and tomatoes. Peel, de-seed and chop the cucumbers. Toss with the sea salt and lemon juice and place in a medium bowl. After about 10 minutes, drain the excess liquid off the salad. Stir in the mint leaves and serve.
Yogurt sauce: stir the ingredients together in a small bowl and put in the fridge to let the flavors blend.
Serve the couscous with a side of salad and a nice dollop of the yogurt sauce.
Four generous servings. 450 calories.