Sausage, spinach, tomato tortellini soup

Soup is my jam period – I mentioned quite a while ago my dream of opening a soup joint or something along those lines. I also share quite a few soup recipes on this blog and I am pretty  sure I will continue to do so. Every time I make a soup that makes me smile, and no not all of them do, I have failed or made just meh soup before but my successes far outweigh my failures. When it is a fabulous one I say out loud to no one in particular “the world needs to have this” and since I don’t have a soup joint and I don’t know everyone in the world I will share another warm, tasty, comfort bowl full of goodness with you all.
img_3953.jpgMy husband even said this was his favorite soup that I have made, that’s saying something! It is definitely in my top 5 but I have made and shared some pretty incredible soups over the years.
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The one common denominator is homemade chicken stock. If you are still not making your own broth, we need to talk. It is SO easy to do using your slow cooker and a leftover chicken carcass. Put the chicken in the bowl add a couple of roughly chopped carrots, celery, onion and some garlic. Cover with water and place on low overnight. In the morning strain out the liquid gold and discard of all the veggies and bones. Taste it to see if you like it or if it needs a little salt. I let it sit all day or overnight in my fridge to let the fat solidify so I can remove it all. Freeze it or use it now!

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Start by using the best ingredients you can find and your soup will be delicious!
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Sausage, Spinach, Tomato, Tortellini soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounce sweet italian sausage, casings removed roughly 2 long links
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
¾ teaspoon dried oregano
6 cups chicken broth
1 14.5 ounce can crushed tomatoes
10-12 ounce package of fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
5-6 ounces baby spinach
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the sausage and break it up a bit, add the onion and cook till the sausage is cooked through a little browned, about 10 minutes making sure to break up the large chunks. Add the garlic and the oregano cook for another minute.
IMG_3950Add the broth and the tomatoes. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add the tortellini, lower the heat to a simmer. Cook till the tortellini is tender, according to the package directions about 5 minutes. Stir in the spinach, and cook till it is just about wilted. Season with salt and pepper, grate some fresh parmigiano-reggiano cheese over it and serve.
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Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking magazine

Parmigiano Reggiano – crisps / alfredo / rind broth

If life gives you lemons you are supposed to make lemonade right? What do you do when someone hands you 3 enormous blocks of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese?  Well I make Alfredo, Parmesan Crisps, Risotto, and Parmesan rind broth and basically grate it on anything and everything I want.

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wine bottle just for scale – wink wink

A couple of weeks ago a friend showed up with 3 blocks of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for me to do with how I please. I truly was dumbfounded. Firstly how I was so lucky? Secondly how much did they get that they could share?  A VERY good friend of theirs sent them a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for Christmas. I couldn’t imagine sending or receiving such an extravagant gift. That’s a good friend to keep!
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I put one of the blocks into my food processor and came out with 12 cups of grated cheese. Just to have on hand; I remember when I was a kid the green canister of grated “cheese” in the fridge was the standard. My children grew up with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano; spoiled I tell you, just plain spoiled. With no green canister in our lives what to do with all the rinds; I used to just throw them in the trash. For several years now I have been saving the rinds of the “tiny”(well; now) blocks of Parm. and put them in my risotto and soups and sauces to add additional flavor to the broths. I recently read about making broth with Parmigiano Reggiano rinds. I have always used chicken broth for risotto but I am SO going to use the rind broth and probably; well at least for a few months use nothing else for soups, stews and my creamy salty risotto.

Parmesan crisps – on a baking sheet lined with parchment or better yet a Silpat
mound a tablespoon full of grated cheese and flatten each a bit. Bake at 325’F for 5-6 minutes.
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Simple Alfredo Sauce – 3/4 cup grated Parmesan, 1 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup butter and 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper. In a sauce pan melt butter. Add heavy cream and simmer (do not boil) for 3-5 minutes. remove heat and add grated cheese and pepper.
Serve over fettuccine noodles or spinach ravioli like I did.

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you want it thick enough to coat the back of your spoon

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swipe your finger across the spoon to test for doneness

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Spinach Ravioli Alfredo sprinkled with fresh basil

Parmigiano Reggiano rind broth – 8 quarts of cold water, 7-8 cheese rinds, 1 tablespoon peppercorns, 3 bay leaves and 1 teaspoon thyme.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 ½ hours. Strain over a large bowl. It will keep in the fridge for 3 days or break up into smaller containers and freeze for a few months.
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I personally wouldn’t make just a rind soup; I really didn’t like the taste of the plain broth but using it added a rich depth of flavor to risotto and using it as a braising liquid is just plain heavenly.

Thyme and Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower

I saw someone roasting a whole head of cauliflower on TV that looked SO good I wanted to try it. The other day I had a head of cauliflower in the fridge so I started looking for some ways to have this for dinner alongside a couple of Ribeye steaks I was making. Well lets just say baking a whole head of cauliflower takes far too long for my weeknight meal; especially since I was starting around 6:30ish. Unless I boiled it first it was going to be well over an hour in the oven. Since I had roasted cauliflower on brain I sliced it into large chunks added some sliced onion and a little garlic and some thyme roasted them in the oven for about 40 minutes.

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It also worked out quite nicely that the oven was well pre-heated for finishing off my steaks in the oven once seared in my cast iron skillet. Dinner was awesome and we had the leftovers for lunch the next day score!!!

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If you have never roasted a vegetable; I can’t stress enough how it will change your life; OK no it’s not that revolutionary but it may make some youngsters; even some adults change their minds over eating their veggies. It makes carrots, beets, butternut squash and onions sweeter. It gives asparagus and broccoli a slightly charred taste. Potatoes have a wonderful crunch and it’s the only way I like brussel sprouts. A little olive oil, salt and pepper and you’re good to go; add an herb and you won’t be disappointed.
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1 head of cauliflower cut into florets
1 medium onion sliced
1 tsp dried thyme or 4 fresh sprigs
3-4 gloves of garlic kept whole
2-3 Tbs olive oil
Kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Toss the first four ingredients either on the sheet pan or if you prefer in a bowl. once on the sheet pan sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 30-40 minutes. sprinkle with cheese toss and roast for another 10-15 minutes longer. 

Parmesan-Garlic Hasselback Zucchini

My garden has been pretty good to me this year with plenty of cucumbers, summer squash and zucchini. I really don’t want to talk about my non-existent eggplant or beefsteak tomatoes. Thankfully my cherry and roma tomato plants are picking up a little of the slack; and it also helps my husband has found a way to add tomato to his sandwich that he thinks works out pretty slick; he takes a bite of sandwich and pops a cherry tomato in his mouth and he likes that his sandwich stays dry. I say win win!

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Now how to get a win with someone who doesn’t like zucchini; which I can actually relate to; when I was growing up; besides my aversion to everything green; the only way I had zucchini and summer squash was steamed or boiled to death. I was reminded of this when I was talking with my dad last week about how I prepare versus how he prepares squash. I like mine on the al dente side and he likes his well on the mush side. No thank you!

IMG_4452Before this I had only made hasselback potatoes, never even thought about another vegetable before but why not?

IMG_4453Parmesan-Garlic Hasselback Zucchini

1 Tbs EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
1 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano or ½ tsp dried
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp fresh cracked black pepper
4 small or 2 medium zucchini
⅓ cup shaved Parmesan cheese

IMG_4454Preheat grill or oven
Combine the first 5 ingredients in a small bowl
Make crosswise cuts every ½ inch along each zucchini. Make sure to slice almost to the bottom of the squash but not all the way through. I use a round handle of a wooden spoon to help me get the same size cuts. Gently fan the squash to make them a little wider.
Place a shaved piece of Parmesan in each of the cuts and then brush the oil mixture over the top.
Place the squash on a double layer of foil and grill (without turning) until browned and tender about 15 minutes.

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Adapted from Eating Well Magazine

Zucchini Chips and Zucchini Boats

If there were an Olympic event for harvesting the most cucumbers from just a few plants or growing the largest cabbage in a raised bed or even who can find and pick the best shaped squash; I think we could be in the running. Despite the drought and thanking my personal “water boy” my gardens are looking pretty damn good!

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look how adorable my butternut squash are!!!

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Now comes the task of what to do with everything. Yesterday I spent the day baking zucchini bread that will last probably till next year, I actually did have to rotate last years bread to the front. I have also been kind of obsessed with fried Parmesan zucchini chips. I think I have made them at least 3 times in the last month; I also made a couple of zucchini hasselback packets for out on the grill. Last night I decided to use up some items I had in the fridge. When I was going through my freezer I noticed a container of last years processed tomatoes that I made into a nice Italian sausage marinara sauce, and there was a small container of ricotta cheese and yes many squashes to choose from.

The ingredients screamed zucchini boats; ya don’t ask me why that is what they said but I personally think it was because I didn’t want to make a full fledged lasagna out of them so I took the easy way out.

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Zucchini Boats

1-2 medium sized zucchini
15 oz. container of ricotta cheese
1 egg
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Handful of fresh parsley chopped
1-2 sweet Italian sausage casings removed; crumbled and cooked
Homemade or jarred marinara sauce
Mozzarella for the top

IMG_4493Zucchini cleaned, trimmed and sliced in half lengthwise

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Using a spoon scoop out the flesh making sure to leave enough to hold the cheese and sauce.

Mix the ricotta, egg, parmesan and fresh parsley

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Fill the zucchini with the ricotta mixture then cover with marinara sauce. Cover with mozzarella and bake at 350’F for 30-45 minutes.

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Zucchini Parmesan Crisps

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1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup Panko*
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 zucchinis, thinly sliced to 1/4-inch thick rounds
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.

In a large bowl, combine Panko and Parmesan; set aside.

Working in batches, dredge zucchini rounds in flour, dip into eggs, then dredge in Panko mixture, pressing to coat.

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Add zucchini rounds to the skillet, 5 or 6 at a time, and cook until evenly golden and crispy, about 1 minute on each side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

 

Serve immediately.

Weeknight Eggplant Parm

Happy Father’s day!!!

This week I started with great intentions; which I like to think we all do; then by Tuesday everything went out the window. As you know by now; well that is if you have read a few of these weekly blogs; I love to cook and bake and I do so very often (except this week) It has been a really nice week here; weather wise so when I got home Tuesday after work I grabbed a glass of sangria went out on the back deck with a magazine and read it cover to cover. That is something pretty rare around here. We usually have so many things going on and things to do; but hey everyone deserves to relax once in awhile right?

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My daughter works a few nights a week, my son is either hanging out with his girlfriend or one of his buddies after work so a lot of nights it is just me and my husband for dinner. When we are all going to be home I really like it when we all sit down for dinner together; just like old times. Never knowing which night it could be I try to have some things in my back pocket that I could throw together for all of us. That is if I am not sitting out on the back deck with a magazine and a glass of sangria. So I finish my glass and magazine and start thinking cool we are all home what can I make. Open the fridge and there are a couple of eggplants I should get to, Oh and there is some leftover risotto that I want to turn into Arancini. OK we’ll have one or the other but I will make both. Can you see where this is heading? So I take everything I need out and get started. It’s already 6:30 OK closer to 7 by now and I think; by the time I get dinner on the table it would be 8:00 or later. Not one of my best ideas; maybe it was the sangria talking?

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The island was covered with my ingredients the clock is ticking and I finally come to my senses and pronounce let’s just have hot dogs and beans. The simple or rather known in my house the no-brainer dinner was enjoyed by all!  I spent the rest of the night in the kitchen making the Arancini and frying up the eggplant which I was finally able to assemble and enjoy the eggplant Parmesan on Friday night; the Arancini are now in the freezer to enjoy other day.

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Here is what I should have made with the eggplant being I had such a late start!

Weeknight Eggplant Parmesan

1 or 2 Medium or whatever you have on hand
1 jar of your favorite jar sauce
Half a package of mozzarella chopped
a sprinkle or two of red pepper flakes adds a little love
serve with fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese sprinkled on top

Cut up the eggplant into medium to small size chunks and place in your cooking vessel, I use my cast iron for the grill it works out great

Cover with sauce and mozzarella and then loosely with tinfoil and cook on medium low heat for about 10 minutes.

I love serving it along side some sweet Italian sausage links grilled and sliced up

 

Arancini

First day of Spring my ass – it is currently 18’F in my neck of the woods this morning and there is a possibility of snow showers tonight into tomorrow morning. Albeit it is sunny out but who wants to go and do anything out there wearing your winter coat, hat and mittens. Don’t get me wrong I see SO many things I want to get out there and do. My yard needs it’s normal debris pick up and I am already thinking about what and where I will be planting my garden. I do see a few of my garlic fronds peaking up from the straw but even they look frightened to come out from under their covers. Yesterday morning I did order a couple of over the railing planters where I intend to plant my herbs so they are closer to my kitchen; so that has excited me a bit.

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My morning rant is over, my cup of tea has been replenished the fam is home and my husband made biscuits for breakfast life is good!

We are leftover people; there I said it. I know there a many people out there that hate; I know that is a strong word so maybe despise might work better here. But I think sometimes you might not know what you are missing. There are so many possibilities here, you can eat them as is or reinvent them into something else.

This past week I had plenty of opportunities. Sometimes I think I make too many different meals during the week just saying. I had some leftover roasted chicken, my son must have made burritos at some point because there was leftover refried beans. So Monday night I turned into a quesadilla for me and my husband along side some sour cream, salsa and we even had some leftover guacamole 10 minute dinner voila’.

 

Last night I turned some leftover cheese sauce into Mac and Cheese and reheated some leftover chili and served them alongside some baby back ribs. My most favorite leftover reinvent was that I was finally able to make Arancini; which is an Italian rice ball. I have been wanting to try making them for well over a year now. Every time I think there is enough for leftovers by the time I go to make them, someone has eaten all my leftover risotto.

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I also made my first souffle it was spinach cheddar and also delicious

 

They were well worth the wait!!!

 

Arancini

When you make risotto and if you haven’t yet what are you waiting for? Double the batch and once everyone has enough for dinner; take the rest of it and place it on a greased sheet pan to cool; place it in the fridge to dry out overnight.

Leftover dried risotto
Sweet Italian sausage
Mozzarella
Breadcrumbs
Oil for frying
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup Parmigiani-Reggiano cheese grated
Pinch Kosher salt
Marinara sauce

I took my favorite sweet Italian sausage with the casing removed crumbled, browned and placed on a paper towel to soak up some of the grease. Once cooled I added it in a large bowl to the risotto along with the eggs and Parmesan cheese and a pinch of salt and mixed well.

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Using wet hands, it makes the rice easier to work with. Making the balls about the size of a golf ball roughly 2 tablespoons; with your thumb create an indent and place a small piece of mozzarella in the middle and rework the rice around it.

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Place the balls on the sheet pan and place in the fridge for about an hour, or if you are impatient like me I just rolled them in the breadcrumbs and fried them in 350’ oil till browned roughly 2-3 minutes.

Serve immediately with your favorite marinara sauce.
They were a huge hit and I cannot wait to make them again!