It is raining today, and actually feels like fall is coming, so here is a warming soup that is quick and easy enough for a weeknight meal. This is another entry in my favorite recipes series. This soup comes from Sara Foster’s cookbook, Sara Foster’s Casual Cooking.
Italian Sausage Soup
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 lb. Italian sausage
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 14.5-ounce can chopped tomatoes with their juices
- 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- Salt and pepper
- 4 cups spinach, cabbage, or other greens, washed and trimmed
- 4 basil leaves, thinly sliced
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cut open the sausage casings and squeeze the meat into the skillet, discarding the casings. Add the onion and saute 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is light brown all over and the onion is tender and translucent. Drain the fat from the skillet. Add the stock, tomatoes and beans. Season to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the greens and basil.
I came up with this salad last week. It’s lovely for this time of year. Serve with chicken breasts pan-roasted with onions.
To make the salad, toss together:
- mixed greens
- toasted walnuts
- dried cranberries
- apple slices
I didn’t put this in, but if you have some goat cheese, it would probably make a nice addition.
Toss with a simple vinaigrette. I favor one made with sherry vinegar and a bit of grainy mustard.
This was a very nice salad to welcome the cooler fall weather.
I actually made this pesto last fall with the last of the basil, but I froze it in ice cube trays and have found many uses for it since. Since this recipe replaces half the basil with spinach, it has a milder taste and can be used in greater quantities than classic pesto. Because the spinach flavor doesn’t overwhelm, this is a good recipe for sneaking a healthy vegetable in unexpectedly. I like this pesto best as a sauce for fresh tortellini or ravioli, but as we discovered last night, it makes a great pizza sauce, particularly if the pizza also features fresh spinach. (I also added crumbled bacon, fresh mozzarella and tomato to the pizza.)
Time to make: ~10 minutes
Yields: 2 cups
- 1 cup basil leaves
- 1 cup fresh spinach, stems removed
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup walnuts, toasted
- ½ cup Parmesan, grated
Combine everything in a food processor and process until pureed.
This pesto freezes very well. Freeze 1 tablespoon portions in ice cube trays. Once the pesto is frozen, transfer the cubes to a large freezer bag. Then you can just remove and defrost what you need for the dish.
It may be 85 degrees here today, but fall has arrived. With the humidity dissipating, the air has that wonderful fresh crispness I love about fall, and the sky is a clear, scrubbed blue. The garden is looking very sad, indeed, and needs to be dug under after we salvage the last few cantaloupes and basil leaves. I’m more in the mood to be outside and to cook, especially soups, stews and heartier fare.
Visitors to my blog seem to feel the same way. Here is what they have been looking for and what I plan to cook as the days get cooler:
I don’t think it’s too soon to think about the holidays and all those holiday treats. I’ve collected a few recipes from around the blogosphere that seem like just the thing for the sweets season:
I guess we’re all set for some cold weather baking. What are you making for fall?
Even though I made up this salad this week, I think it would be best for fall, when both apples and carrots are in season. But I happened to have an apple on hand, plus some grated carrots, and the dish naturally came together. Perhaps you might recognize that the classic Waldorf Salad is in its pedigree, but I actually prefer this combination. This is a zingy, refreshing salad full of crunch, appropriate with a light lunch or as a dinner starter.
Carrot and Apple Salad
Time to make: ~15 minutes
- 1 apple (preferably sweet), peeled, cored and grated
- ½ cup carrots, grated
- 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp. walnuts, toasted and chopped
- 1 tbsp. mayonnaise, or just enough to bind
- ½ tbsp. lemon juice
- salt, pepper and parsley to taste
Of course it’s no secret that sweet potatoes are in their prime right now. Why else would they be ubiquitous on the Thanksgiving table? But sweet potatoes should come to visit more often than once a year in a sweet and sticky casserole. They can do anything that potatoes can do, and they can do it with more nutritious value and more glamour, thanks to that bright orange color.
Many people around these parts refer to sweet potatoes as “yams,” but they’re not the same thing at all. Sweet potatoes are the orange tuber we’re all familiar with. Yams are harder to come by, and are usually white or red. Still, yams can stand in for sweet potatoes, as can boniato, pumpkin and winter squash.
One medium sweet potato will serve two easily. Look for smaller sweet potatoes that are deep orange in color. Try to avoid those with worm holes or soft spots, but if you get one, cut away the affected area when peeling; the rest should be fine. Sweet potatoes will keep for up to two weeks in a cool place (not the refrigerator).
Mashed sweet potatoes are a holiday staple (see my simple recipes here). But there are lots of other ways to cook a sweet potato. Here are some suggestions:
- Simmer ‘em: Cube and simmer over low in 1/4 cup stock per 1 pound cubed sweet potatoes with a little butter until just tender, 20-30 minutes
- Braise ‘em: Dice and brown in butter before simmering until tender in 1/4 cup liquid
- Bake ‘em: Prick the skin with a fork and bake at 425 degrees until soft, about 1 hour; great topped with Parmesan, butter or even pesto
- Roast ‘em: Peel, cube and roast; they are particularly nice as part of a medley of roasted root vegetables
- Make “fries”: Cut into wedges, toss with oil and cayenne, and bake at 475 degrees for 20-30 minutes
- Make “hash browns”: Cut into matchsticks and pan-fry over medium-high in oil or butter until browned, about 15 minutes
Sweet potatoes make an unusual addition to many recipes. Why not try them in risotto, as a filling for ravioli or use them to make a vegetable bread (similar to pumpkin bread)? I have one left over from Thanksgiving that I am planning to turn into a filling for burritos; I’ll post the recipe afterward.
So, how are you going to use your leftover sweet potatoes?
A Nor’easter is blowing through our area, just in time for Thanksgiving travel. It’s cold, windy and rainy — a perfect night for soup.
As you may have noticed, I make a lot of soups and pasta dishes at home. We go out to eat one to three times a week, and we really enjoy discovering a good restaurant. But I don’t go out for dishes like soup and pasta (unless it’s at one of the two local restaurants that make really good homemade pasta, something I can’t do). I find restaurant soups to be either too rich, full of cream and cheese, or too blandly seasoned, especially at those mid-range restaurants. And an order of pasta is likely to result in a pound of pasta and rich sauce, which I find daunting.
At home, I tend to make hearty but low-calorie soups with lots of veggies and flavor, and pasta dishes that are light on the pasta but are really satisfying. For eating out, I’ll save those dishes I can’t make so easily, or so much better, at home. This soup falls into the hearty category, and it’s perfect for a rainy, wintry night.
Time to make: ~30 minutes
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- ½ minced onion
- 2 tbsp. minced celery
- 2 tbsp. minced carrots
- salt, pepper and other seasonings to taste
- ½ pound Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
- 4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
- 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup canned three-bean mixture
- 1 bunch chopped kale or other greens
- grated Parmesan to taste
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium. Saute the onion, celery and carrots until soft. Season with salt, pepper and whatever else you like. Add the potatoes and stir around a bit. Add the stock, tomatoes and beans. Raise the heat and let come to a bubble. Add the kale. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the greens are well-cooked. Garnish with grated Parmesan.
Notes: I used a seasoning mix that included paprika, sage and cayenne. I added a little more after each additional ingredient to build up the flavor. I used a mixture of “salad” beans — kidney, pinto and garbanzo — but any beans will work.
First of all, I’m not even going to review last night’s Top Chef. I thought it was a really boring episode altogether. The challenges were boring, the food was boring and the results were boring. Even the great cheating “scandal” was boring. I understand why they couldn’t kick anyone off, but that doesn’t make for entertaining television. (And why was a camp for fat kids named Camp Glucose? Doesn’t glucose mean sugar? Doesn’t that seem kind of cruel?)
So, let’s talk instead about an easy, warming, cold-weather soup. This recipe uses whatever mushrooms you like, although it’s better if you mix in some different types of wild mushrooms. When I made it last night, I used dried shiitakes, portobellos and button.
Mixed Mushroom Soup
Time to make: ~30 minutes
- 1 ounce dried mushrooms (any kind)
- 1 tbsp. butter
- ½ lb. mixed mushrooms, sliced
- salt, pepper and dried herbs to taste
- 1 leek, sliced
- 1 tbsp. shallot, minced
- 1 tsp. garlic, minced
- up to 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 tbsp. sherry
- parsley for garnish
Soak the dried mushrooms in hot water for 15 minutes to rehydrate. Meanwhile, heat the butter over medium. Add the fresh mushrooms and let cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Slice and add the dried mushrooms to the mixture, reserving the mushroom soaking liquid. Season with salt, pepper and dried herbs of your choosing. Add the leek, shallot and garlic, and let cook 1 minute. Combine the mushroom soaking liquid with enough stock to make 2 cups and add it to the pot, with the sherry. Bring just to a boil. Garnish with parsley and serve.