How to Avoid a Power Outage & Chicken Soup Florentine

When we were little kids, an approaching snowstorm was cause for excitement. With any luck, school would be cancelled. Yes, we did love those snow days. As it so happens, I still do. Com’on, who doesn’t like to spend the day in leggings and a ratty, no-longer-allowed-in-public turtleneck?

Now, I grew up in suburbia where power outages were rare. A snow day meant we could hang out in our PJs and watch television or read books until Mom sent us outside to build a snowman. As a would-be grownup, I can still hang out but a movie binge only works if the power stays on.

My neighborhood generally loses power a couple times a year. It happens when heavy snow takes down a tree which in turn takes down a power line. Sometime, instead of snow, a monster wind knocks them down. Or a frigid rain leaves a thick coat of ice on the lines, causing them to snap. Finally, and thankfully less frequently, some yahoo drives too fast and takes out a pole.

Just like a kid with inside-out and backwards PJs and ice cubes down the toilet, I’ve developed a series of rituals to ensure the lights stay on in spite of an approaching storm. I suppose none of this would be necessary if I invested in a generator but what’s the fun in that?

These rituals are not foolproof but, heck, they worked for the last two storms. Feel free to join me. For any hope of success, you must complete all the steps. The order doesn’t matter but completeness does. Just think, you might save your neighborhood from a power outage. Here goes:

Have the power company’s number handy so you’re ready to call the minute the lights go out.

Fill at least three large buckets with water. You’ll need it to refill the toilet after flushing. Fill several jugs or pitchers with water for drinking and cooking.

Run the dishwasher – even half-full. You’ll want plenty of clean dishes if the power goes out.

Do any urgent laundry. Of course, you define urgent but, if it were me and I was down to my last pair of leggings, I’d do a load.

Take a nice long shower. You want to be clean too.

Rummage around and locate every flashlight in the house. Check the batteries and stock up as needed.

Have candles ready as well as matches. Dinner, even in a power outage, tastes better by candlelight.

Don’t be left incommunicado – charge your phone. While you’re at it, charge your tablet and laptop.

Make soup. Whether the snow is gently falling or the wind is howling, there is nothing like curling up in front of the fire with a good book and a mug of soup.

And, just in case the power stays out for a couple of day … have plenty of wine on hand.

It worked last week. Hopefully, it will next time! Bon appétit!

Chicken Soup Florentine
Lights on or off, this delicious soup is great on a cold, winter evening. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Olive oil
1 1/2-2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Pinch or to taste dried pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 or more quarts chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind* (optional)
1 pound whole mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
1 pound baby spinach

Heat a little olive oil in a large soup kettle over medium-high heat. Sear the chicken, 1-2 minutes per side. Remove from the pot and reserve.

If necessary, add a little more olive oil to the pot. Add the onion, celery and carrot, sprinkle with thyme and pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more.

Return the chicken to the pot, add the stock, wine and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut or shred it into bitesize pieces.

Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a skillet, add the mushrooms and sauté until lightly browned.

Return the chicken to the pot and add the mushrooms. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

This soup is best when made in advance to this point. If you have the time, cool the soup to room temperature and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

If the soup is too thick, add more stock. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the spinach and stir to combine and wilt. Simmer for 2-3 minutes and serve.

* Adding a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind will add flavor and richness to your soup.

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One Year Ago – Orecchiette with Cauliflower & Bacon
Two Years Ago – Romaine & Radicchio Caesar Salad
Three Years Ago – Sausages with White Beans
Four Years Ago – Chocolate Panna Cotta
Five Years Ago – Turkey Scaloppini with Prosciutto & Sage
Six Years Ago – Cheese Fondue
Seven Years Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Eight Years Ago – Tuscan White Bean Soup
Nine Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Risotto
Ten Years Ago – Swimming Pool Jello

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are your favorite snow day rituals? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019

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’Tis the Season for … Pasta & Gnocchi with Mushroom & Bacon Ragù

Winter is a great time for pasta. So much so that I seem to find a lovely bowl of warm and wonderful spaghetti, gnocchi or tortellini on my table at least a few times a week. I know the anti-carb lobby does not approve but there is something ever-so-cozy about pasta. Admit it, there’s nothing better on a cold winter night. Damp and rainy cold or polar vortex cold, it doesn’t matter – pasta is the answer.

Of course, you’ll never get bored because the variety of shapes and sizes is endless. It’s not just the hundreds of possible choices to throw in the boiling pot. The list of sauces goes on forever as well. Why – I bet you could enjoy a different dish every night for year without a single repeat.

When it comes to homemade pasta, I find that one thing leads to another. A batch of ravioli inspires a nest of tagliatelle. The same goes for gnocchi. I’ve no sooner served up a hearty platter of potato gnocchi that my brain starts to spin with new recipes. Spinach, butternut squash or what about roasted beet gnocchi? When was the last time you had a purple dinner?

Anyway, pillowy-soft gnocchi, tantalizing tortellini or a simply delicious fettucine, they all need a fabulous sauce. As kids, the only one to grace our table was a hearty Bolognese. However, we were in no way fancy enough to call it that. To us, it was simply Spaghetti Sauce. And by the way, my mother, who really never liked to cook, simmered up a mean Bolognese.

Eventually, I learned there was more to Italian cooking then a great red sauce. Given my penchant for pasta during the winter months, that’s a good thing, a very good thing. After a long day, if you have an urgent need for a cozy meal, consider pasta and any of the following for a quick and easy sauce:

  • Leftover roasted vegetables topped with browned butter and toasted hazelnuts are a wonderful combination – try butternut squash or cauliflower
  • For an early taste of spring, sauté asparagus, snow peas and spinach and drizzle with fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil
  • Cacio e Pepe – made with butter, cracked pepper and cheese – it’s the minimalist’s answer to Mac & Cheese
  • Sauté your favorite spicy sausage with broccoli rabe and garlic and finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon
  • Simmer garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes in olive oil, wine and lemon and add clams
  • Sauté some onion with lots of garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes, add crushed tomatoes and simmer before adding shrimp, olives and a few capers
  • Whirl up a batch of bright green pesto with basil or your favorite herbs plus a sprinkle of cheese and nuts
  • Chop up a green sauce of spinach, herbs, olives and capers – finish with a touch of lemon and garlic
  • Anything with cream including just cream and cheese
  • Anything with bacon

The possibilities are endless. Bon appétit!

Gnocchi with Mushroom & Bacon Ragù
Last week’s column featured homemade Cheesy Potato Gnocchi. For a cozy supper, toss the gnocchi in an easy sauce of bacon and mushrooms. Enjoy!
Serves 6

1 1/2 pounds gnocchi,* homemade or store bought
6 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
Olive oil
1 1/2 pounds whole mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cognac
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/4-1/2 cup half & half (optional)
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

If making homemade gnocchi, prepare the gnocchi.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil and place over medium heat. Add the bacon and, stirring occasionally, cook until the bacon just starts to brown. Add the mushrooms and onion, sprinkle with rosemary and thyme, season with salt and pepper and sauté for 5-8 minutes. When the mushrooms start to brown, add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes more.

Add the wine, stir in the mustard and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cognac. Return the skillet to the stove, stir and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Add the broth and simmer until reduced by half. Reduce the heat to very low to keep warm.

Cook the gnocchi according to directions.

Use a spider or slotted spoon to add the gnocchi to the mushrooms and gently toss to combine. If the mixture seems dry, add the half & half or a little pasta water and toss again. Cover and cook on medium heat for 1 minute.

Transfer the gnocchi to shallow bowls and serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

* if you don’t have homemade gnocchi in the house, the ragù will be just as delicious with tortellini or fettuccine.

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One Year Ago – Pa Jun – Savory Korean Pancakes
Two Years Ago – Spaghetti with Mushrooms & Bacon
Three Years Ago – Oven Braised Chicken with Mushrooms, Onions & Garlic
Four Years Ago – Capellini with Lobster & Caviar
Five Years Ago – Sour Cream Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting
Six Years Ago – White Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Coulis & Fresh Raspberries
Seven Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets & Lentils
Eight Years Ago – Chicken Niçoise
Nine Years Ago – Greek Pizza
Ten Years Ago – Triple Threat Brownies

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are your favorite dishes to cook up on a cold winter day? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019

Holiday Cocktails & Cheesy Spinach Tartlets

The holiday season means holiday parties. Don’t ask me why but expectations always seem to be over-the-top. Forget a casual get-together; it just won’t do. No indeed, our holiday parties should sparkle. If you’re thinking of hosting one this year, you may be feeling a wee bit of pressure. It’s okay, take a deep breath and don’t panic. After all, ’tis the season for holiday magic.

Be it dinner for eight or cocktails for fifty, don’t worry, everything will be smashing. Not only will you figure it out, you might even keep your sanity. First, let’s start by stating categorically and for the record that one-of-a-kind, special and specular do not mean perfect. After all, why settle for perfect when you can have wonderful?

It starts with the company. Collect a group of brilliant, funny conversationalists and the party will be a success. Good company makes for a good party. However, add great food and a beautiful setting and the evening becomes exceptional.

Whenever you put together an eclectic group, it’s a good idea to enlist some kind of conversation starter. Some hosts do it with ugly sweaters or twenty questions. I find that food, yes food, is a fantastic ice breaker. Set out a beautiful cheese board and someone will share a story about a recent trip to France. Smoked salmon with all the fixings will encourage a tall tale of a fishing trip or Christmas Eve smorgasbord.

Keep it simple but elegant. There is no need to buy box after box of hors d’oeuvres from Trader Joes or Costco. Instead, think homemade and two or three, not tens, of different appetizers to pass. Add a few beautiful platters, scatter bowls of olives and nuts or other nibbles and you’ve got it covered.

Every family has its holiday food traditions. From oysters on the half shell to Christmas cakes and sugar cookies, certain foods are inextricably linked to yuletide. When planning your menu, consider bringing a few updated family favorites to the table. That said, you might want to skip the green Jello salad in the Christmas tree mold. Some things are better left in the past.

End on a sweet note. Let’s face it, at least a few of your friends are night owls and don’t know when it’s time to go home. A subtle and delicious hint is to put the savory treats away and pass a tray of holiday cookies. After all, aren’t you suppose to go home after dessert? Even if they don’t get the hint, be flattered. Everyone is having too much fun to call it a night.

Now for the decorations. Start with lots of greenery and boughs of holly. Next, big bowls of simple glass balls are lovely – especially in candlelight. Elegant gold and silver or cheery red – it’s up to you. Of course, you will want to bring out all your favorite decorations. Whether you have a grand army of nutcrackers or Santas from around the globe, your collection is part of your holiday story.

Finally, everything looks better by candlelight. I’m rather fond of red candles for the holidays but it’s up to you. Fat ones, skinny ones, tall and short, more is better so don’t be shy. (Do be careful to place candles where they won’t be knocked over. As much as we love our volunteer firefighters, I’m guessing you’d rather they come as guests – not to the rescue.)

Have a lovely party and bon appétit!

Cheesy Spinach Tartlets
For a delicious little nibble, pass flavorful tartlets at your holiday cocktail party. You can buy and fill phyllo tartlet shells or make your own pastry. Enjoy!
Makes about 24 tartlets

Savory Tartlet Pastry (recipe follows) or frozen Phyllo Tartlet Shells
Olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
8 ounces frozen spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
2 large eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon thyme
Pinch nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup shredded mozzarella
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

If using Savory Tartlet Pastry, make the dough and divide into 1 1/2 to 2-inch balls. Place the balls in mini muffin tins and, using your fingers, shape each ball into a tartlet shell. Place the tins in the freezer for 15 minutes. If using phyllo tartlet shells, put the shells in mini muffin tins and store in the freezer until ready to fill.

While the dough chills, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and make the spinach filling.

Heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Remove from the heat, stir in the spinach and cool for a few minutes.

Put the eggs in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the ricotta, season with thyme, nutmeg, salt and pepper and whisk until smooth. Fold in the spinach and mozzarella.

Spoon the filling into the tartlet shells, sprinkle the tops with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and bake until the filling sets and the top and crusts are golden, about 20 minutes. Cool in the tins for 5 minutes before removing and serving. You may need to use a small knife to loosen the tartlets.

The tartlet shells and filling can be prepped 1 day in advance and stored separately.

Savory Tartlet Pastry
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces
3 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into small pieces
2-3 or more tablespoons ice water

Put the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and cream cheese and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually add the ice water and pulse until the dough comes together in large clumps. Remove the dough from the food processor, pat into a ball and wrap in plastic or parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

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One Year Ago – Romaine, Radicchio & Avocado Salad with Pomegranate & Walnuts
Two Years Ago – Garlicy Shrimp with Tomatoes & Olives
Three Years Ago – Wild Rice Pilaf with Roasted Mushrooms & Kale
Four Years Ago – Maple-Nut Sundaes
Five Years Ago – Rosemary Cashews
Six Years Ago – Greek Stuffed Mushrooms
Seven Years Ago – Ginger Crème Brûlée
Eight Years Ago – Aunt Anna’s Pecan Pie
Nine Years Ago – White Chocolate & Cranberry Trifle
Ten Years Ago – Chicken with Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Penne

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are your favorite holiday cocktail party tips? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Being Thankful & Spaghetti con Tacchino e Broccoli (Spaghetti with Turkey & Broccoli)

Still not sure about one or more dishes for your Thanksgiving feast? Okay then, before you start reading … ..if you are looking for Thanksgiving menus, click here. On the other hand, if you’d rather build your own menu by picking and choosing from a long list of Thanksgiving-friendly recipes, that list is here.

November is a dreary month. Most days dawn cold and rainy – or snowy. However, all is not lost; the month is saved by Thanksgiving. We can take comfort in the knowledge that family and friends will gather together at the end of the month. With a fabulous, harvest feast a few short days away, I can’t help but be a bit reflective. Alright, I admit it; my head is filled with thoughts and images of Thanksgivings past.

Early Thanksgiving dinners were at my grandmothers’ houses. Dressed in our Sunday best, we’d arrive around noontime. As cooks go, Nana Nye was the better of the two but it was hardly a contest. Nana Westland didn’t care one wit. She was more than happy to have Grandpa take us all out for Thanksgiving dinner.

I am thankful for my memories of these two very different women. I count myself lucky and grateful that all four of my grandparents were around throughout my childhood and well into my twenties.

After a couple of disastrous Thanksgivings in noisy, overcrowded restaurants, Mom put her foot down. She announced that she was cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Her mother and mother-in-law could bring a dish if they liked. It would be welcomed but wasn’t necessary. Now, Nana Nye was a staunch supporter of Cape Cod turnip. Unable to imagine a Thanksgiving dinner without it, she always mashed up a batch and brought it along. Since Nana Westland spent as little time as possible in the kitchen, she sent Grandpa to Captain Marden’s to pick up a couple of pounds of shrimp for the cocktail hour.

I am thankful that every year, without fail, Dad will ask if Cape Cod turnip is on the menu. It always makes me laugh. He also brings shrimp. Both are lovely reminders of my two grandmothers.

Like her mother, Mom didn’t really like to cook but she embraced Thanksgiving dinner with enthusiasm. No, she didn’t get all fancy and gourmet. We didn’t have tamarind glazed turkey or roasted carrots drizzled with tahini sauce. Her menu was the epitome of New England cooking.

I am thankful that I grew up with a mother full of good cheer, life and energy. Her exuberance made every holiday special.

Mom’s first Thanksgiving culinary coup left an indelible reminder of her spirited approach to the family feast. Mom chopped up an apple and threw it in the stuffing. As far as she was concerned, it was a culinary miracle and she was absolutely delighted with herself.

I am thankful for all the little things that tie us together as a family – like Mom’s Stuffing with the Apple. Yes, that is what we call it.

As popular as her stuffing was, Mom decided it wasn’t enough. Perhaps she was worried that we’d run out of food because she kept adding dishes. Oyster dressing, creamed onions and pecan pie joined the already groaning table.

I am thankful for Mom’s example of updating and evolving our New England traditions. I am even more thankful that Campbell’s green bean casserole never found its way onto our Thanksgiving table.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and bon appétit!

Spaghetti con Tacchino e Broccoli (Spaghetti with Turkey & Broccoli)
When you can’t eat another turkey sandwich, it’s time for a change of taste. Reinvent your leftover turkey with broccoli and spaghetti tossed with a generous hint of lemon, garlic and red pepper. Enjoy!
Serves 8

About 1 1/2 pounds broccoli, cut in bite-sized florets and pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound spaghetti
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
1 teaspoon Italian herbs
1/2 teaspoon or to taste crushed red pepper
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cups bite-size pieces leftover turkey
1 ounce plus more to pass Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1 ounce plus more to pass Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook according to package directions less about 1 minute. About 5 minutes before the pasta is due to be done, add the broccoli.

While the pasta and broccoli cook, put the wine, olive oil, butter, garlic, anchovy paste, herbs and pepper flakes in a large skillet and, whisking frequently, cook on low. Remove from the heat when the garlic is fragrant and pale brown. Do not overcook. Sprinkle with lemon zest, drizzle with lemon juice and whisk again.

Reserving a little pasta water, drain the spaghetti and broccoli.

Add the pasta, broccoli and turkey to the garlic and toss to combine. Sprinkle with the grated cheeses, stir in a little pasta water and toss again. Cover and cook on medium for 1-2 minutes to combine the flavors.

Transfer to a deep serving platter or individual shallow bowls and serve with more grated cheeses.

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One Year Ago – Kale & Radicchio Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash
Two Years Ago – Homemade Butternut Squash Ravioli with Browned Butter
Three Years Ago – Thanksgiving Leftovers
Four Years Ago – Cranberry Clafoutis
Five Years Ago – Black Friday Enchiladas (Enchiladas with Turkey & Black Beans)
Six Years Ago – Snowy Pecan Balls
Seven Years Ago – Chocolate Truffles
Eight Years Ago – Smoked Salmon Mousse
Nine Years Ago – Roasted Beans
Ten Years Ago – Winter Soup with Pasta, Beans & Greens

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How do you use up those yummy Thanksgiving leftovers? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

#IWILLVOTE & Cheesy Roasted Cauliflower & White Bean Soup

It’s the midterms. A time in our democracy when too many people stay home and enjoy a nice cup of tea rather than head out to the polls. But not me, my mother made sure of that. Mom was a firm believer in the power of the vote. Maybe it was because her mother was born before the nineteenth amendment was passed. Moreover, her grandmother was well into her forties when she was able cast her first ballot. Either way, Mom realized it was a hard won right and not to be ignored.

However, not everyone has had the privilege of being my mother’s daughter, son, grandchild or great-grandchild. Without her good influence, whole bunches of people have found lots of reasons to skip the trip to the polls. Here are a few … and her probable retorts:

It’s too cold to go out.
So, what else is new? It’s always cold in New Hampshire in November. Put on a coat; don’t forget your gloves and a hat too. By the way, if you suddenly won tickets to a Patriots game – would you turn them down? I don’t think so.

It’s raining. I don’t want to get wet.
You must have an umbrella. Why do I know this? Easy, because I have at least a half dozen of them in all colors, shapes and sizes and most of them were free.

I don’t have time.
Depending on what you do and where you live, this one might have merit. For example, the day shift at the hospital runs from seven to seven. Those are the exact hours of our local polling station. However, you can stop by the town offices and pick up an absentee ballot. As for that other stuff – you can get your hair cut, your nails done and your car washed on Wednesday. If you have time to stand in line for a lottery ticket, you have time to stand in line to vote.

I have no idea who’s running? I only (sometimes) vote in presidential elections.
Mom wasn’t tech savvy but if she was – she would have told you to go to your computer, visit your town website and pull up a sample ballot. If you can’t find one there, Google NH 2018 midterm election for a list of candidates. Now, check out them out and learn about their policy positions. Vote for candidates who best align with your values.

Why bother? My vote doesn’t matter.
Now, here’s a funny thing – your vote actually does matter. The 2016 presidential election was determined by about 70,000 votes. Living in a small state, that might seem like a lot but think again. More than 135 million people voted in the 2016 election. The final outcome came down to 70,000 individuals who made the effort to get to their polling stations that day.

It’s all rigged.
Another funny thing, voter fraud is actually extremely rare. Yes, it makes a good sound bite at a rally or in a tweet but the facts don’t back it up. When you go to the polls, you can be confident that your vote will count and matter.

#IWILLVOTE on November 6. You can too. See you at the polls and bon appétit!

Cheesy Roasted Cauliflower & White Bean Soup
Reward your trip to the polls with a cozy mug or bowl of soup. Enjoy!
Makes about 4 quarts – freezes beautifully so don’t hesitate to make a double batch

Olive oil
About 4 ounces (4 slices) thick cut bacon, chopped
1 head (2-3 pounds) cauliflower, cut in bite-sized pieces and florets
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves
3-4 cups cooked small white beans (about 8 ounces dried beans or 2 15-ounce cans)
6-8 cups chicken stock or broth
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
3-4 sprigs thyme and 1 bay leaf tied together with kitchen twine
2 cups half & half
2 ounces plus more for garnish Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
2 ounces plus more for garnish Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly coat a heavy skillet with olive oil and heat on medium. Add the bacon and sauté until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and reserve.

Put the cauliflower on 1-2 baking sheets, drizzle with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and enough bacon fat to lightly coat, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Roast the cauliflower at 375 degrees until tender, about 30 minutes.

If you like – set some of the roasted florets aside for garnish.

Put the onion, carrots and garlic on a baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and enough bacon fat to lightly coat, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Roast the vegetables at 375 degrees until tender, about 20 minutes.

Put the vegetables in a large soup pot, add the white beans, 6 cups stock and the herb bundle and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes.

Cool the soup for about 20 minutes. Remove the herb bundle, and, working in batches, puree the soup. Use a blender for very smooth soup or pulse in the food processor for a more rustic version. Return the soup to the pot and stir in the half-and-half.

If you have the time, cool the soup to room temperature and store in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Stirring frequently, adding more stock if necessary, reheat the soup to steaming on medium. Stir in the cheeses and stir until the cheeses have melted and combined into the soup.

Ladle the soup into mugs or bowls, sprinkle with the reserved florets and bacon and serve. Pass more grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano for the cheese lovers.

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One Year Ago – Savory Smashed Sweet Potatoes
Two Years Ago – Creamy Polenta with Mushroom & Kale Ragù
Three Years Ago – Butternut Squash Crostini with Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction
Four Years Ago – Moroccan Spiced Vegetables & Chickpeas with Couscous
Five Years Ago – Smashed or Mashed Potatoes
Six Years Ago – Apple Muffins
Seven Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Warm Roasted Squash
Eight Years Ago – Spinach Ricotta Pie
Nine Years Ago – Seared Scallops with Lentils
Ten Years Ago – Tomato, Olive & Feta Tart

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What’s your favorite cozy soup on a chilly day? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Back on Cook’s Corner – Cheesy Polenta with Fresh Corn

Looking for a cozy side dish for fall? I’m back on Cook’s Corner today with a delicious suggestion.

Quick before it’s all gone, give my Cheesy Polenta with Fresh Corn. (You can use frozen corn if you can’t find fresh.)

If you missed me live – you can watch the clip!

Hip Hip Hooray for Pasta Day & Linguine alla Vodka with Seared Scallops

National Pasta Day is tomorrow. For many of us, any day is a good day for pasta. After all, who doesn’t love pasta? Nine out of ten kids choose it for their birthday dinners. (I just made that up but is sounds true – doesn’t it?) A favorite of athletes, it’s the meal of choice before every marathon. Warm and cozy, pasta is perfect for simple family dinners and casual entertaining.

Growing up in the suburbs, my pasta vocabulary was limited to spaghetti, macaroni and ravioli. Who knew there were as many as 350 different and all wonderful pasta shapes? I guess suburbia will do that to you. Lush green lawns are not a problem but the international aisle at the supermarket, well, it’s limited at best.

Anyway, with age and broadened horizons, I have discovered a whole heap of options. If you speak Italian, most types are fairly descriptive. Think cavatappi (corkscrew), tagliatelle (ribbons), conchiglie (shells) and conchiglioni (big shells). From the charm of campanelle (bell flower) to the more curious orecchiette (little ears), it’s all good.

Then again, at least one or two have a darker side. Strozzapreti or priest chokers are cursed. Poor farmers and innkeepers fed them to gluttonous priests who cared more about their stomachs and purses than the wellbeing of their congregations. The vengeful plan called for the clergy, with their voracious appetites and greed, to gobble up too much too fast and choke on the delicious pasta.

Pasta’s versatility is more than the wonderful shapes and sizes. With a seemingly endless array of great sauces, you can probably toss up a different dish every night for a year. That simple marinara or red sauce of our childhood is both delicious and a good start. Add a touch of the devil with spicy red pepper flakes, a little sophistication with vodka or turn it into a hearty Bolognese.

Creamy sauces are wonderful on a chilly night. After a crazy, busy day, you can have dinner on the table in minutes with fettuccine carbonara or Alfredo. Or relax and get cozy with macaroni baked in a cheesy béchamel sauce. No need to stick to the tried and true cheddar. Get creative and experiment with gorgonzola, Fontina and mozzarella. Add depth and flavor to your dish by adding vegetables, meats or poultry, even lobster.

Not sure what goes with what when it comes to pasta and sauces. Thin, delicate pastas, like angel hair, are best with light sauces. Thicker pasta, like fettuccine, is great with heavier sauces. Chunky sauces work best with pasta which has holes or ridges, like rigatoni, penne rigate or fusili.

When serving pasta as a main course, two ounces of dried pasta per person should do it. Italians traditionally serve pasta as a first course. If you decide to adopt this tradition, cut the portions in half. Same goes for pasta as a side dish, plan on one ounce per person. With fresh pasta, three to four ounces will satisfy most people. Of course, all of these measures go out the window if a horde of hungry college students or marathoners gather around your table.

The cardinal rule of pasta is not to overcook it. Italians eat their pasta al dente or to the tooth. Pasta should be firm, a bit chewy, but not crunchy. Taking a taste is the best way to check. However, you can always entertain your friends by throwing spaghetti at the refrigerator. If it sticks it’s done.

Enjoy warm and wonderful pasta throughout the fall and buon appetito!

Fettuccine alla Vodka with Seared Scallops 
A delightful change from a traditional marinara sauce, vodka sauce pairs beautifully with fettuccine and scallops. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 pounds sea scallops
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 pound linguine
Olive oil

Sprinkle the scallops with oregano, paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper and let sit while the water comes to a boil for pasta.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions, less 1 minute. Saving a little of the pasta water, drain and return the pasta to pot.  Add enough Vodka Sauce to coat plus a little pasta water and gently toss. Cover and set on low to keep warm.

Meanwhile, lightly coat a heavy large skillet with a little olive oil to and heat over medium-high. Add the scallops to skillet and cook until opaque in center, about 1 minute per side.

Transfer the fettuccine to a large, deep serving platter or individual shallow bowls, top with scallops and serve.

Vodka Sauce
Makes about 2 quarts

Olive Oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped or grated
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cans (28 ounces each) crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup vodka
3/4 cup heavy cream

Coat a heavy sauce pan with enough olive oil to lightly coat and heat over medium. Add the onion, carrot and garlic, sprinkle with herbs, pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Sauté until the vegetables are tender.

Add the crushed tomatoes and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.

Optional – Let the sauce cool slightly, then transfer to a blender in batches and process until smooth.

Return the sauce to the pot, add the vodka and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring frequently for about 20 minutes. Whisking constantly, slowly pour the cream into the sauce and whisk until well combined.

Cover and refrigerate or freeze left over sauce.

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Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What’s your favorite pasta and sauce? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018