Saturday, October 5, 2013

(Usually) Tortellini Soup

Fall has come, although we're having quite the Indian Summer here.  It was in the low 90s here today!  That said, I've been inside most of the day working on my sermon and doing laundry.  The glamorous life never ends!  I knew I needed something simple, filling, and super-tasty for supper, and if I could eat off of it for a few days, all the better.  I had been thinking about my tortellini soup and thought that would hit the spot so that's what I made.  Ok, ok, so I actually made raviolini soup since that's what I had, but you get the gist, y'all.

This soup is so simple and so good.  Tweak it to your liking.  It's very easy to make it vegetarian, and you can add some kind of meat to make it heartier.  It's a winner for your recipe repertoire.  I didn't have a recipe the first time I made it so I just threw together what looked and sounded good.  Baby spinach adds nutritional value and tastes great in the soup.  Sautéing the onion until it is translucent adds a lovely depth.  I like to add a handful of grated cheese so I try to keep the salt in the rest of the recipe to a minimum.  Want it spicy?  Crushed red pepper flake does the trick.  (I generally do a palmful.)

The best part?  It'll taste even better the next day as the flavors meld.  Nom nom nom.

Without further ado, here's the recipe for (Usually) Tortellini Soup:

  • 1 carton unsalted chicken or veggie stock (I like Kitchen Basics)
  • 1-14.5 oz can Italian style diced tomatoes (basil, garlic, oregano)
  • up to a 9 oz package of tortellini, raviolini, or other small stuffed pasta (I generally use cheese but will try some meat varieties as the weather cools, and I generally recommend using about 2/3 of the package so you have more broth.)
  • 1 palmful each dried basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper flake, adjusted to your taste preferences
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 bag baby spinach, using as much as you'd like
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt, adjusted to your taste
  • grated cheese, if desired (I like parmigiano)
In a minimum 3 quart pot, saute the diced onion in the olive oil over medium heat until it is translucent.

Add the stock, then tomatoes, herbs, and crushed red pepper flake.  Give it a taste before adding the salt, then taste again after adding the salt to see if you need more.  Add the spinach to your liking, then cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Give the broth a taste again, adjusting your seasonings as necessary.  Add as much pasta as you'd like out of the package, then cover and let cook for the recommended cooking time on the package, generally 3-5 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and serve with the grated cheese on top.  Mangia!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Learning To Love Brussels Sprouts

As a child, I did not like brussels sprouts.  Let me amend that statement: I would say that I hated them.  As the years have passed, my tastes have changed and expanded, including many foods that I had not thought I'd ever choose to eat, but I still thought, "Brussels sprouts-- yuck!"  Family and friends kept touting these miniature cabbages, over and over again, until I wondered if I might have them one day and actually find they were tasty.

As I shopped one day at Little House Green Grocery in Richmond, Virginia, I found myself in front of a stalk of incredibly fresh brussels sprouts.  They intrigued me and persuaded me to buy them so they could convert me to a sprout lover.  Oh, how glad I am that I did!

I first tried to roast them with garlic and olive oil, following Mark Bittman's recipe.  Things were proceeding perfectly until I checked on them and found them burnt!  My house smelled like failure...very tasty failure.  Encouraged by the few that emerged uncharred, I tried again and tasted success.  Needless to say, I now ask people how they like to fix these little guys so I can learn new tricks.  Thankfully, they are available in the produce section of many stores, washed and ready to steam, saute, roast, or whatever you prefer.  Trader Joe's even has them julienned for you.  Yum.

This is my most recent preparation: julienned and roasted with olive oil and bacon.  So easy.  So good.

Julienned Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

  • Fresh brussels sprouts (serving size is 4 per person as a side, but I do at least 8 if I'm making a meal out of them)
  • Olive oil
  • Bacon (I used the Trader Joe's precooked applewood smoked bacon to cut out on some of the fat and mess)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
If your brussels sprouts are not prewashed, wash and dry them well.  Preheat your oven to 425.

After cutting off the base, cut each sprout in half, then cut each half into thirds.  Set aside.  Chop your bacon into bite-sized pieces.  If you're not using precooked bacon, it will be easier to chop if it is colder, and make sure to use a different cutting board so there's no cross-contamination.  

Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to an overproof skillet.  I like to use a cast iron skillet, but if you do, make sure to watch the sprouts in the oven!  This is where I went wrong the first time.  Turn to medium-low and add the bacon to the pan.  When the bacon begins to sizzle, add your sprouts.  Season with salt and pepper to your liking.

Stir the sprouts and bacon so that they are evenly coated with the olive oil (and yummy bacon fat), then sauté until they're turning a nice, bright green.  Put the skillet in the oven, checking after about 8 minutes.  

Give them a stir, then cook for another couple of minutes until the bacon is crispy, and the sprouts have begun to brown.  Watch them carefully!  They're good crispy and brown, but if they're getting too dark, take them out.

I like to serve them in a bowl with a spoon so that I can scoop up every bit.  Oh, they're so good!

Vegetarian variation: substitute butter for half of the olive oil.  You can also add garlic, and I imagine shallots would be delicious in this.  You can drizzle with balsamic vinegar or toss with some parmesan cheese as well.  Enjoy!