Thursday, October 25, 2007

Perfect Soup Weather

I’ve been on a real soup kick lately and my beloved dutch oven and I have been having a ball! I found this recipe for Zuppa Toscana months and months ago, printed it out while drooling on it and then stuffed it in a folder and quickly forgot about it. Now as far as I’m concerned, this soup is the only way I could ever justify going to Olive garden…

Fall is in the air here in beautiful Long Island (*snark*) and there’s nothing more comforting that a hot bowl of homemade soup. I stumbled back upon this recipe last week and got so inspired that I planned a whole week’s menu around soup, soup and more soup! Specifically, soup, chili and chowder. It has been one DELICIOUS week!

This came out amazing and there are only a few changes I will make next time. It’s supposed to be a copycat recipe, but for some reason, they have the sausage in links and then sliced when the original has crumbled bits of sausage. I couldn’t find small spicy links that weren’t breakfast sausage, so I used 6 big Italian spicy sausages instead. I flirted with the idea of taking them out of their casing and browning them in the pot but wanted to follow the recipe exactly the first time. While it was still delightful, next time I will try it with the crumbled sausage. Not only will it speed up the cooking time (roasting the sausage in the oven seemed like a ridiculous waste of time), it will also add another layer of browned bits to the bottom of the pan, and I think we all agree, you can never have too many browned bits!

On with the show!

Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana

Recipe from

12 small spicy sausage links
2 medium potatoes, cut in half lengthwise, and then cut into 1/4" slices
3/4 cup onions, diced
6 slices bacon
1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups kale leaves, cut in half, then sliced
2 tablespoons chicken base
1 qt. water
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place sausage links onto a sheet pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until done; cut in half length-wise, then cut at an angle into 1/2 inch slices.

Place onions and bacon in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until onions are almost clear. Remove bacon and crumble. Add garlic to the onions and cook an additional 1-minute. Add chicken base, water, and potatoes, simmer 15 minutes. Add crumbled bacon, sausage, kale and cream. Simmer 4 minutes and serve.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tuna Melt Nostalgia

Sometimes, the simplest things are the best things. One of those kinds of times is when, even after a month of living in your new home, your living room still looks like a bomb went off and you have completely lost that lovin’ feelin’. I’m 100% burnt out. I really hope I get my mojo back soon because there are 6 rooms that need painting and a whole living room and guest bedroom AND office to furnish, not to mention all of my plants are dying and I can’t decide if that is because it is Autumn or if it’s because they hate me.

So, I started thinking of the good old days back in California before I had 2 mortgages and had never once given a thought as to whether Benjamin Moore paint was really worth the extra bucks and whether I’m supposed to put the darker color above or below the chair rail. There was a burger place across the street from Glendale Community College whose name now escapes me but whose tuna melts I will never forget….I needed comfort, so I pulled out my Panini press (which changed my life, by the way.) and went to work…

Even my brand spankin’ new world’s most beautiful oven doesn’t turn out a crispy pre-frozen French fry…I figure I must be doing something wrong, but what it is I have no clue. My next life changing appliance purchase is going to be a mini deep fryer for things like this and my for daddy’s crab puffs and sweet & sour pork….

Tuna Melts

For the tuna salad:
2 cans solid white Albacore Tuna in water
½ cup chopped seedless cucumber
I stalk celery, chopped
Some flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 T dijon mustard
¼ C or more (to taste) low fat mayo
Salt, pepper
(I never make my tuna salad the same way twice. This is a standard recipe and I throw in whatever else I find in the fridge…capers are good, and sometimes I replace the cucumbers with chopped dill pickles…YUM!)

4 slices of fresh from the bakery, sourdough bread, slathered on one side with softened butter
Tomato slices
Thick slices of cheddar cheese

This sandwich is easy as pie….just put 2 slices of bread butter side down on a cutting board and build up…cheddar, tuna, tomato, cheddar and then the other slice of bread, butter side up on top. Toast them in your Panini press, or in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until the cheese is all drippy and melty and the bread is crunchy and golden brown.

Don’t serve it with soggy fries like I did.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

cooking in my new kitchen!

The last 4 weeks have been completely consumed with all things moving. There are both good and bad things about being able to take your time moving from one place to of the worst obviously being that pesky double mortgage thing, but also simply that the more time you have, the more you take and things tend to get drawn out...blogs tend to get neglected, you tend to eat 20 frozen topp's hamburgers on the grill in 1 week with ketchup flavored potato chips on the side because you can't find your friggin' wok...things like that....

My new oven, however, makes me so positively gleeful I think I might never want to eat out again! If it weren't for the lack of a dishwasher in our new house (how bizarre), I could gaurantee that! It is a gorgeous and substantial kitchenaid stainless beauty and everything comes out as if angels were inside of it just whistling and dancing on the food. It makes me want to sing! What makes my husband want to sing, however, is chicken parmesan....he loves it. Obsessed to the point it is sort of a joke with his friends. We go out for Chinese and they ask "what are you ordering Scott? A chicken parm hero?" I had never attempted to make it before but it seemed fairly simple so I gave it a shot...I glanced at a few recipes on the web and decided just to wing it and I'm glad I did....this was the best thing I have made in a long time!


Scotty’s Favorite Chicken Parmesan

For the chicken:
4 chicken breast cutlets, about 6 oz. each.
Flour, salt & pepper
2 eggs, beaten with about 2T water
Italian breadcrumbs
Grated parmesan cheese
Half a ball of sliced, fresh mozzarella (please don’t use polly-o)

For the sauce:
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 small can tomato sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ yellow or white onion, minced
1T dried oregano
½ T dried rosemary
Pinch of crushed red pepper
About ¾ cup of chiffonade or torn basil leaves
Olive oil

Sauté garlic and onions in olive oil until fragrant and onions are translucent. Add oregano, rosemary and crushed red pepper and both cans of tomatoes. Simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes and then stir in basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the sauce continue to simmer over low heat while you prepare the chicken.

Preheat oven to 350

Set up a cookie sheet or sheet pan covered in foil and sprayed with nonstick cooking spray next to the stove.

Set up 3 bowls or casserole dishes. One with flour, salt & pepper combined, one with the egg and water mixture and one with the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.

In a large sauté pan or nonstick skillet, heat about ¼ cup olive oil over medium high heat until it shimmers. One at a time and working in batches so as not to crown the pan (I did 2 at a time), dip each cutlet first in the flour mixture, then the egg mixture and then the breadcrumbs making sure to thoroughly coat with each layer even if it means pressing the chicken into the mixture, and fry about 3 minutes on each side or until the breading is golden and crispy. Move cutlets to sheet pan and top with more grated parmesan, 1 ladle of sauce and a thick slice of mozzarella cheese. Bake for 15 minutes and then switch to broil for 5 minutes more until cheese is golden and bubbly. Serve with buttered pasta or veggies…we chose broccoli. Yum!