Fire Roasted Tomato Minestrone

The combination of chopped onions, celery and carrots, sautéed in olive oil (to make what Italians call soffritto) or in butter (to make what the French call mirepoix) is wonderful for adding flavor to sauces, soups, stews and stuffings. Around the holidays, I keep soffrito or mirepoix in the refrigerator so that I have the aromatic vegetables already prepared to make holiday cooking easier.

I generally use about 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of butter or extra virgin olive oil per cup of raw vegetables, adding a dash of salt and pepper. To the onions, I also add a splash of dry white wine. For this minestrone, I prefer olive oil to butter, but either will work. If you have soffritto already made, you can substitute 3 cups of it for the vegetables in this soup and reduce the olive oil to 1 to 2 tablespoons.

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Fire Roasted Tomato Minestrone

This is a delicious, stew-like minestrone … flavorful and filling for the winter months. If you prefer a more brothy soup, you can thin this with a little vegetable or chicken stock.

Ingredients

• about 1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil, divided

• 1 c. diced onions

• 1 c. diced celery

• 1 c. diced carrots

• 1/3 c. dry white or red wine

• 2 28-oz. cans diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes – or 1 can diced, 1 can crushed (do not drain)

• 1 15-oz. can cannellini beans (white kidney beans) or great northern beans, drained and rinsed

• 1 15-oz. can red kidney beans or black beans, drained and rinsed

• 1 T. dried oregano, crushed

• 1 T. paprika or smoked paprika

• 1 t. dried thyme, crushed

• 1/2 t. sea salt

• fresh grated Romano or Parmesan cheese, optional garnish

Directions

(1) If you do not have soffritto already prepared, start by sautéing vegetables in olive oil, one type at a time, using about 1  – 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil, and a dash of salt and pepper, per cup of vegetables. I like to add a splash of dry white wine to the onions. Cook briefly until crisp-tender.

(2) Add prepared vegetables, wine, about 1 T. of the remaining olive oil, tomatoes, beans, and spices to a large pot (6-8 qt). Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the minestrone comes to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook at a low simmer, continuing to stir occasionally, for about 15 minutes. (So that the vegetables remain crisp-tender, don’t overcook.) Taste.  Add more olive oil, wine, or seasonings if desired. Ladle into warm bowls to serve.

Serving suggestion: At the table, grate a little cheese over each bowl of minestrone – but not for vegans. Serve with warm bread and a glass of wine.

Seafood Cobb Salad

A perfect meal for late summer evenings …SaladSeafoodCobb

Seafood Cobb Salad

2 large servings

Layer together on two dinner plates, and then serve immediately:

6 c. torn lettuce, washed and dried

3/4 lb. cooked shrimp, crab and/or lobster, cleaned and shells removed

2 lg. ripe tomatoes, chopped

1  avocado, diced

2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and diced

4 slices cooked bacon, crumbled

wedges of lemon or lime, for garnish

dressing, served on the side

Dressing

Vigorously shake together:

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil,

2 T. red wine vinegar

1 t. lemon or lime juice

1 t. Dijon mustard

1/2 clove of garlic, minced – optional

pinch of sugar, or to taste

salt and pepper, to taste

SaladCobbSeafoodHands

Enjoy! Have a great Labor Day Weekend!

Watermelon Dinner Salad

The other day I came across a recipe for a watermelon, tomato and red onion salad which was the inspiration for my Watermelon Dinner Salad.  The flavors of watermelon and tomato blend surprising well and the cranberries add a little tang. This is a refreshing dish for summer and can be served as a light meal or as a first course.

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Watermelon Dinner Salad

serves 6

For the Dressing:

1/3 c. Raspberry-infused White Balsamic Vinegar (or any similar fruity vinegar)

3 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 T. honey

1/2 t. salt

For the Salad:

5 c. seedless watermelon, cut into 1-inch cubes

4 c. sliced ripe tomatoes

1 1/4 c. sliced, peeled cucumbers

8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into slices then torn into small pieces

1 – 1/2  heads romaine lettuce

Garnishes:

1/4 c. fresh basil leaves

1/3 c. dried cranberries

freshly ground pepper (I use a green and pink peppercorn blend)

honey

Directions:

1. Combine the dressing ingredients in a jar. Screw the lid on and shake until ingredients are well-blended.

2. In a large bowl, gently toss together the watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers, mozzarella and dressing. Chill for about 1 hour before serving.

3. Just before serving, wash and dry lettuce and basil.  Divide lettuce between plates. Top with salad.  Garnish with basil leaves, dried cranberries and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with a little extra honey. Enjoy!

Improvised Tomato Pumpkin Soup

After making Bumpkins  yesterday, I found myself with leftover pumpkin that I wanted to use for dinner in some way. Being a great believer in the art of culinary improvisation, I decided to make something using only ingredients that I already had in the house; and besides, it was 7 pm before I started cooking dinner, I was still waiting for one room to check in, and there was no way that I was going to the grocery store. So here is what I came up with along with some suggested variations. The point of this post isn’t “Oh, this is the best soup ever … you’ve got to try it.”  (It is really good, though; otherwise, I wouldn’t have posted the recipe!) Rather, the point of this post is an exhortation to be creative. Go ahead, have fun and improvise … you might come up with something you like!

Improvised Tomato Pumpkin Soup

4 oz. dry quinoa pasta shells

1/4 c. diced red bell pepper, sautéed in olive oil

3 c. chopped tomatoes (I used Pomi brand from Italy)

1 1/4 c. packed pumpkin

2 c. vegetable stock

1 c. frozen corn

1 T. Italian Seasonings

1/2 t. hot red pepper flakes

dry white wine

fresh grated Romano cheese.

1. Put the pasta on to cook.  Meanwhile, saute peppers.

2. While the pasta is cooking and the peppers are sauteing, add the following to a 4-qt. stockpan: tomatoes, pumpkin, vegetable stock, corn, Italian Seasonings and red pepper flakes.  Cook over medium heat. Add peppers when they are crisp-tender.

3. When pasta is done cooking, drain and then stir into soup. Add white wine to taste, about 2 T. Cook for 5 more minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

4. Serve topped with grated cheese. (Some crusty French bread would go really well with this soup.)

Suggested Variations

– substitute beans for corn (or use in addition to corn)

– substitute yellow onions for red peppers

– use another pasta, or use rice

– top with cheddar cheese

– use red wine instead of white

– add fresh herbs

– add croutons when serving

Have fun! Enjoy! I’d love to hear your ideas …

Italian Seasonings

After yesterday’s harvesting and drying of herbs, this morning I found myself thinking about to what uses I wanted to put them. Most of them I will just store plain, but  I will probably make some seasoned salts and after breakfast I did make a batch of Italian Seasonings. (Recipe below.)  The golden oregano, thyme, rosemary and chenzo pepper were from my garden. Except for a few leaves here and there – not enough to merit drying – my basil is already gone for the season.

There are quite a few variations in recipes for Italian Seasonings. Some have majoram, parsley and/or savory. Many don’t have the hot pepper. Here is the recipe that I use.

Ingredients:

4 T. dried basil

4 T. dried oregano

1 T.  granulated garlic

1 1/2 t. dehydrated minced onion

1 1/2 t. dried thyme

1 1/2 t. dried rosemary

1/2 t. dried hot red pepper

Pulse ingredients in a small food processor until desired consistency.

As you can imagine, after producing a batch of Italian Seasonings, I had to make something Italian with it! And luckily for me, I had some fresh vegetables in the house that I needed to use. So for lunch we had polenta with romano cheese and a thick, tasty tomato-pepper sauce. Now I need a nap! Ciao!

Piquant Pieper Sauce and Pieper Eggs

My husband always tells me that the one draw back to my recipes is that I am not sufficiently creative when it comes time to name them.  Despite the unimaginative name -when writing my first cookbook, I ran out of appellations and named this dish after myself – this is quite delicious. It can be served warm or cold to top eggs, tofu, pasta or pizza. It can also be served as a dip for French bread, pita bread or chips. Shown below, Pieper Eggs … what else?

Piquant Pieper Sauce

4 lg. ripe red bell peppers

1 1/2 c. tomato sauce (unseasoned)

1/2 c. chopped white onion

1 jalapeno pepper

1 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 T. granulated sugar

2 to 3 T. fresh lemon juice, divided

2 t. paprika

1 t. salt

1/4 t. salt

1/4 t. fresh ground pepper

1 pinch ground thyme

1 clove garlic, crushed

(1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange peppers on parchment paper. Place baking sheet in the oven and  roast peppers, turning them occasionally with a pair of tongs, for about 20 minutes or until their skins are very blistery. Place peppers in a paper bag. Close the bag and let the peppers cool for 10 to 15 minutes or until they are cool enough to handle.

(2) Meanwhile, wearing plastic gloves, remove the stem and then chop the jalapeno. Place jalapeno in the bowl of a food processor.

(3) Working over the food processor bowl, peel the peppers, removing as much of the skin as  you can. Remove the stems and slice the peppers open. Remove and discard the seeds. Place peppers in the bowl of the food processor.

(4) Add remaining ingredients, starting with just 2 T. of the lemon juice. Process until almost smooth.

(5) Preheat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Pour the sauce into the skillet and cook for about 20 minutes or until the liquids have cooked off and the sauce is very thick. Stir frequently. If the sauce begins to spatter while it is cooking, reduce the heat.

(6) When the sauce is thickened, taste to see whether it needs more lemon juice, salt or pepper. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Use right away or store in the refrigerator in a covered glass jar. Yields about 1 quart.

Pieper Eggs

(per serving)

1 t. unsalted butter

2 lg. eggs

1 T. milk

3 to 4 T. warm Piquant Pieper Sauce, divided

2 slices French Bread, warm and buttered

1 c. baby spinach, optional

1 T. chopped fresh parsley

(1) Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Add butter and swirl it around the skillet. When butter just starts to sizzle, the skillet is ready.

(2) Meanwhile, beat together the eggs and milk. When the skillet is ready, pour in the eggs. Let eggs start to set on the bottom. Use a turner to pull them toward the sides of the skillet. Repeat, without stirring constantly, until the eggs are about half-cooked. Add 1 t. of sauce to eggs and continue to scramble until they are set.

(3) Place French bread on a warmed plate. Optionally, top with spinach. Then top with eggs. Garnish with remaining warm Piquant Pieper Sauce and then parsley. Serve immediately.

Variation: add 1/4 c. shredded mild cheddar cheese to eggs while they are cooking.

Pasta with Raw Tomato Sauce

This dish is probably my favorite way to enjoy fresh tomatoes in the summer. It is delicious and easy to make. The key is to have very ripe tomatoes.

Ingredients (measurements approximate)

2 servings of pasta

3 c. diced raw tomatoes at room temperature

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

8 fresh basil leaves, shredded, plus extras for garnish

1 T. fresh thyme leaves

sea salt, to taste

crushed red pepper flakes, optional

several dashes balsamic vinegar

1/2 c. fresh grated Parmesan cheese

While pasta is cooking, combine tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, basil, thyme, sea salt and red pepper flakes. When pasta is done, drain and divide between two bowls. Top with raw tomato sauce. Dress with balsamic vinegar. Top with Parmesan cheese, garnish with basil leaves, and serve right away.