Friday, February 18, 2011

Italian Sausage Soup

As it continues to be cold, I will continue to post soup recipes! I love this soup so much I once completely ignored my mom telling me that it had just come off the stove and slurped up a big spoonful. I did sort of regret that bite, but I haven't regretted another one since then!

This soup is probably borderline healthy. Obviously, the sausage contributes some fat. However, there are also a number of veggies and other healthy additions, so I don't necessarily put this on the "bad" list. Plus, if you are vegetarian and sub in some veggie sausage, the health factor goes way up without losing any deliciousness. This is not a particularly difficult recipe, and you can easily sub in anything you have a craving for or just what you have on hand.

Italian Sausage Soup

1 1/2 lbs. Italian sausage (can mix mild and hot)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large onions, chopped
1 large can (1 lb. 12 oz.) Italian-style tomatoes
3 cans beef broth (or veggie)
1 1/2 c. dry red wine (or water)
1/2 tsp. dried basil (or 1 tbsp. fresh)
3 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
2 medium zucchini, cut in 1/4-inch slices
5 oz. farfalle (or other pasta)
grated Parmesan cheese

Remove and discard sausage casings. Cut sausages into 1/2-inch lengths. Cook in a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat until lightly browned. Spoon off and discard all but 2 tbsp. of the drippings. Add the garlic and onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with their liquid (break up the tomatoes with a spoon). Add broth, wine, and basil. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add parsley, pepper, zucchini, and noodles. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes, or until noodles are al dente. Serve with grated Parmesan.

Slurp away!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Julia Child's quiche

If you've been reading this blog for a little while, you've probably seen mention of the fact that I haven't liked eggs for very long. But it turns out that eggs are actually a good source of protein and something I don't mind eating. While my sister was visiting a little while back she suggested making a quiche. This wasn't something I had necessarily considered because my idea of quiche was something sad-looking and greasy-tasting. Upon further consideration, we decided we could do it "right" and consulted Julia Child.

This was absolutely UNbelievable. The crust was so amazing that I can't wait to use it in more applications. And you know what? It was not difficult to bring together at all. The only time-consuming aspect of this dough is that it does need to be refrigerated. It does not take that long, however, and it is a perfect time to start cooking the vegetables and preparing the rest of the ingredients. We made this on a weeknight and didn't even eat dinner at a ridiculous time.

I cannot say enough good things about this recipe. Put your own spin on it! Use what ingredients you have on hand and make it delicious for yourself. Just use this base - trust me, you won't be disappointed!

Pate Brisee (I don't remember how to put in accents!)
Not really adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks (6 oz.) butter, chilled and cut into pieces
4 tbsp. (1 oz.) shortening
scant 1/2 c. iced water
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sugar (optional, for color)

Measure the flour, salt, and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Use your hands or a pastry cutter to blend the butter and shortening into the flour until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the water and use your hands to incorporate it until the mixture forms a mass. The dough should be well-formed but not sticky. Press the dough firmly into a ball.

On a lightly floured surface, use the heel of your hand to knead the dough in pieces until the fat is well-blended into the flour. You do not want to overdo this step as it is important that the dough does not become too warm. Incorporate it back into a mass and chill. You can do so in the freezer for about one hour or in the refrigerator for two hours, or overnight.

When ready to use, roll out the dough as quickly as possible so it does not warm up. When the dough is rolled out to the appropriate size, place it in a springform pan. There are probably many great dough rolling and manuevering tutorials than what I can tell you. As I continue to practice and improve I will try to add that.

Spinach and Leek Quiche
Not really adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

3 leeks, washed and sliced up to the green part
3 good handfuls of spinach, washed
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 tbsp. olive oil

3 eggs
1 1/2 c. whipping cream
1 c. grated cheese, Swiss or Gruyere (spring for Gruyere!)
pinch of nutmeg
salt & pepper, to taste
1 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. For parbaking the crust, either use pie weights or dry beans on top of a buttered piece of foil, pressed on top of the dough. Bake the dough for 8 to 9 minutes. Remove the foil and prick the bottom of the dough with a fork. Continue to bake for 2 to 3 more minutes, until the dough is just starting to color. Do not remove the springform pan until you have finished baking the entire quiche.

Reduce oven heat to 375 degrees. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium to large skillet. Add the garlic and saute for one to two minutes. Add the leeks and cook until soft, about 6 or 7 minutes. Add the spinach and cook for just a minute or two, until wilted.

Beat the eggs, cream, seasonings, and 3/4 c. cheese in a mixing bowl. When the leeks and spinach mixture is cool, add it to the eggs and stir until well-combined. Pour into the pastry shell. Top with the remaining cheese and the small pieces of butter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until puffed and browned.*

* It took us the full time plus a couple minutes. The quiche did go from not set at all to set very quickly. Look for a minimal amount of wiggling in the center of the pan.

Savor every. single. bite!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

We're back!

And now back to our regularly scheduled blogging! Well, "regularly scheduled" may be used a bit loosely here. Still, onward and upward! The finger is nearly healed, to the point that the only reminder will be my strange fingerprint. I guess if I had any hopes of a life of crime, they're over now. I think my prints will be pretty identifiable. I'm already attempting to turn the winter blues into some great time in the kitchen. I have a ton of recipes backed up that I can't wait to share!

I thought I would start with this amazing, Southern classic of a meal I made quite successfully for the hubs and I. I realized some time ago that shrimp and grits would be a great dish for the two of us to enjoy. I don't believe that I had ever eaten grits in any form before this. But adding it up... shrimp + ground corn + cheese + bacon... didn't seem like anything I could possibly dislike.

I think what took me so long to make this recipe was that there are a million different versions that can have quite a long list of ingredients. I wanted to enjoy the recipe in a basic form the first time so that I could determine what other vegetables or flavors would add something positive. Enter Pat Conroy. One of my favorite authors, who wrote a cookbook that I received (and gave!) as a present from (and to!) my mom this year. You know what the funny thing is? This recipe is so good I'm pretty sure that next time I won't even add anything.

The only changes I made were to add cheese to the grits and scallions as a garnish - because everything is better with those two ingredients. Sorry for the fact that I only took one photo, these came together too quickly!

Shrimp and Grits
adapted from Pat Conroy's Recipes of My Life

1 c. coarse white grits (I used yellow; it was what I could find)
1 - 1 1/2 c. white cheddar cheese, grated
2 slices bacon, cut into matchsticks
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tsp. lemon juice
kosher salt, to taste
2 - 3 drops of hot sauce
3 - 4 scallions, sliced

Slow-cook the grits according to package directions. When cooked add the grated cheese and stir until blended. Keep warm, but set aside.

Heat a medium skillet over moderate heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan, but leave the drippings. Set the bacon aside. Next, add the shallot and cook until softened but not brown. Add the butter, and when it's melted, add the shrimp. Make sure you do not cook the shrimp until the grits are ready. When the shrimp is pink, about 3 minutes, add a pinch of salt and the lemon juice.

Serve about 1/2 c. of grits on each plate and top with shrimp. Add the reserved bacon back to the pan along with the hot sauce and swirl to create a thin sauce. Pour the sauce over the shrimp and grits and top with the scallions.

Bask in the praise of your adoring spouse/friend/family member!