Showing posts with label Hearth and Soul Blog Hop. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hearth and Soul Blog Hop. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Nigella's Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic: Comfort Food Extraordinaire

Here in all it's browned, slightly crispy-skinned, moist and tender glory is Nigella's Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic. The recipe that begat the Garlicky Chicken Soup I posted on Sunday. Easy, flavorful comfort food at its best and a great example of the recipes in Lawson's newest cookbook "Nigella Kitchen."

I vowed I was not going to buy this book due to having way too many cookbooks (yes, I am finding there may likely be such a thing as having too many cookbooks), but I have to blame this purchase on the mouthwatering review of the book that girlichef posted recently. I thought maybe I would just take a peek at it even though I wasn't going to buy it... That was followed by finding the book on sale for 50% off, having an additional 25% off coupon, and finally adding in my 10% membership discount at Barnes and Noble. I love a bargain and how could I resist getting this one for less than $12.00? I took it as a sign. ;-) The book is already covered with colored tabs of the different recipes I want to make but this recipe caught my eye and I knew I had to make it first.

The recipe can be found at Food network here and in "Nigella Kitchen" on pgs 326-329

Nigella says, "When I was young, this old French classic was still - though in a quiet way - very much in vogue. I dare say it was because the novelty of using so many garlic cloves had not worn off; it seemed somehow dangerously excessive. Even so, I don't think anyone would think it quite unremarkable now to put 40 cloves of garlic in a casserole. Certainly, if you peeled and chopped - let alone minced - the garlic, it would be inedible, but garlic cloves cooked encased in their skins grow sweet and caramelly as they cook, like savory bonbons in their sticky wrappers, rather than breathing out acrid heat. This is a cozy supper, not a caustic one.

It is not quite the classic version (not that there is only one: food is as variable as the people who cook it) but it sticks to the basic principles. Maybe because the white meat on chicken tends towards the utterly tasteless these days, I prefer to use not a whole chicken, but thigh portions only. Naturally, this wouldn't make sense if you were raising your own chickens, then slaughtering them for the pot, as was the custom when this recipe came into being (and very good it would have been, too, for adding oomph to an old bird) but if you're following the contemporary shopping model, it works very well. For some reason, I veer towards recipes that can easily be cooked in one of my wide and shallow cast-iron Dutch ovens and this fits the bill perfectly.

By all means, add some steamed or boiled potatoes alongside if you wish, but I'd prefer, by far, a baguette or two to be torn up and dunked into the flavorsome juices; though don't rule out the option of sourdough toast, which is the perfect vehicle for spreading the sweet-cooked garlic onto. Otherwise, some green beans or baby peas or a plain green salad is all you need for a sure-fire salivation-inducing supper.

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
From "Nigella Kitchen" by Nigella Lawson
(4 to 6 Servings)

2 tablespoons regular olive oil
8 chicken thighs (with skin on and bone in), preferably organic
1 bunch or 6 scallions
8 to 10 sprigs fresh thyme
40 cloves garlic (approximately 3 to 4 heads), unpeeled
2 tablespoons dry white vermouth or white wine
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt or 3/4 teaspoons table salt
good grinding pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat the oil on the stovetop in a wide, shallow ovenproof and flameproof Dutch oven (that will ultimately fit all the chicken in one layer, and that has a lid), and sear the chicken over a high heat, skin-side down. This may take 2 batches, so transfer the browned pieces to a bowl as you go.

Once the chicken pieces are seared, transfer them all to the bowl. Finely slice the scallions, put them into the Dutch oven and quickly stir-fry them with the leaves torn from a few sprigs of thyme.

Put 20 of the unpeeled cloves of garlic (papery excess removed) into the pan, top with the chicken pieces skin-side up, then cover with the remaining 20 cloves of garlic. Add the vermouth (or white wine) to any oily, chickeny juices left in the bowl. Swish it around and pour this into the pan too. Sprinkle with the salt, grind over the pepper, and add a few more sprigs of thyme. Put on the lid and cook in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.

Make Ahead Note: Chicken can be browned and casserole assembled 1 day ahead. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator. Season with salt and pepper and warm the pan gently on the stovetop for 5 minutes before baking as directed in recipe.

Making Leftovers Right: If I do have any chicken left over - and I don't think I've ever had more than 1 thigh portion - I take out the bone then and there and put the chicken in the refrigerator. Later (within a day or two), I make a garlicky soup, by removing the chicken, adding some chicken broth or water to the cold, jelled juices, placing it over a high heat and, when that's hot, shredding the chicken into it and heating it through thoroughly, till everything is piping hot. You can obviously add rice or pasta. Otherwise, mash any leftover garlic into the concentrated liquid (which will be solid when cold), chop up some leftover chicken, and put it all into a saucepan with some cream. Reheat gently until everything is piping hot, and use as a pasta sauce or serve with rice.

Notes/Results: Really good--so much delicious flavor. The garlic is so sweet, mellow and creamy and the juices from the steaming (I used white wine), flavored with the scallions and thyme are delectable. My only beef is that I would have liked a bit more "sauce" with this one as good as it tastes--so next time I might add a bit more wine or a little chicken stock to get more of the sauce factor. I ate this simply with slices of soft baguette to smear the garlic on and enjoy with the tender chicken. In fact if serving this for company, I would just give everyone their own small baguette to eat with their chicken and creamy garlic. The next night, I smashed/mashed a couple of potatoes and mixed them with some of the garlic puree to accompany the chicken. Then of course there was the soup--homey and excellent. I will definitely make this again.

This is good, warming, soul-filling food so I am sending it along to the Hearth 'n Soul Blog Hop hosted by girlichef and some other wonderful bloggers like A Moderate Life, Hunger and Thirst, and Frugality and Crunchiness wth Christy, and Alternative Health and Nutrition News. Check out the round up for all kinds of fabulous recipes.

BTW: If you have not had a chance to go over to the Ile de France Cheese site and vote for my Ile de France Camembert Sliders, I would love it if you would. My cheesy mini burgers are in the Top 10 Finalists in the Cheese Lover's Choice Fan Voting Category and I could sure use your vote. If you click here, it leads to the site where you can give me (Deb C. on the poll) the number of "stars" you think appropriate for my dish. (Of course I won't turn down any 5 star votes. ;-) lol) Voting is open until January 5th. Mahalo!


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Asian Pesto Udon--Something a Bit Different for Food 'N Flix: Ramen Girl

OK, this recipe might have you scratching your head when you read the ingredient list--smoked almonds, ginger and coconut milk along with soy sauce and brown rice vinegar might seem like an odd combination for a pesto but it is the genius of Eric Gower and one of my favorite cookbooks, "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen: Inspired New Tastes." If you can find a copy of it or his other more recent book, "The Breakaway Cook: Recipes That Break Away from the Ordinary," I highly recommend them both. The guy is a master of mixing diverse ingredients and flavors to create unique, tasty dishes, and this Asian Pesto Udon is a great example.

I know you were probably expecting a big bowl of Ramen to represent this month's Food N' Flix film Ramen Girl but I've been there, done that. I first saw this movie about a year and a half ago and did a dinner and a movie post with a Tyler Florence ramen recipe here .

My first interpretation of the movie: Tyler Florence's Chicken Noodle Ramen Soup

This time I thought I would change it up a bit with a different kind of noodle. Udon are a thicker, wheat-based noodle rather than the thin, crinkly ramen. I buy a fully-cooked udon, made in Hawaii out of the refrigerated case that just needs to be heated, so this recipe took just minutes to prepare. (Gotta love that!)

Gower says, "A satisfying and easy sauce that can be made in less time than it takes to boil the water. It's equally good hot or cold. Hot version: heat the sauce, serve over hot udon. Cold version: make the sauce, chill it, plunge the just-cooked noodles into ice water, and mix. Either way it's nice with a chilled glass of dry riesling or semillon blend."

Asian Pesto Udon
"The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen" by Eric Gower
(Serves 2)

1/2 cup smoked (or roasted) almonds (I used "smokehouse almonds")
3 Tbsp fresh ginger, diced
1 Tbsp walnut (or other light) oil
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 Tbsp brown rice vinegar (or other vinegar)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
udon for 2, about about 1/2 lb (225 g)
1 cup cilantro, chopped (or to taste)

Set a pot of water to boil for the udon. Combine everything except the cilantro in a blender and blend. When the water boils, add the udon and cook until al dente, and then drain. Transfer the sauce from the blender to the pot, add the udon, and mix. Taste for salt, top with the cilantro, and serve in warm bowls.

Notes/Results: A little smoky--I used "smokehouse" almonds, a little kick of ginger and creaminess from the almonds and the coconut milk, this is a unique sauce that tastes great on the thick noodles. I tried it both hot and cold and I am not sure which way I like it best--texturally I preferred it warm, but some of the flavors like the ginger seem to come out more when it is cold. I liked this a lot, it is different but really good. The sauce, thinned out a bit would make a great dressing too. So quick, easy and flavorful, I will make this again.

Aren't my $1.99 chopsticks cute? Love the shiny dragonflies. ;-)

So, a review of the movie? Here's what I said in my original post (I'll be honest--I didn't watch it again): "A girl needs a good chick flick now and then, something light and fluffy, where you don't have to think--a feel good movie. I ended up needing one last Friday; I was tired, grumpy, stuffy from allergies and needed a low-effort evening. In one of my Netflix envelopes was "The Ramen Girl", a total chick flick, and seeing the name of the movie made me crave some ramen to eat while I watched it.

Brittany Murphy is Abby, an American alone in Tokyo after her boyfriend breaks up with her and leaves her stranded there. Finding comfort in a bowl of hot ramen from a noodle shop across from her apartment in Japan, and searching for some direction in life, she trains to be a ramen noodle chef under the tutelage of the surly and usually drunk owner and ramen "master". It's not the best movie you'll ever watch, it is complete fluff; the acting just OK, the story improbable at best, but it is sweet and cute."

In addition to Food 'N Flix (BTW--you can stop by the site & see the round up for Ramen Girl in December),

I am also sending this easy unique pasta dish to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by its fabulous creator, Ruth at Once Upon A Feast.

And I'm linking it to the Hearth 'N Soul Blog Hop hosted by hosted by my pal girlichef as well as A Moderate Life, Hunger and Thirst, and Frugality and Crunchiness wth Christy, and Alternative Health and Nutrition News.

Hope you are having a fabulous week. ;-)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Lemon & Poppy Seeds: A Light & Healthy Holiday Side Dish and Other Brussels Sprouts I Have Loved...

Besides the fabulous friends I have gotten to know and the improved cooking skills, another big bonus that the world of food blogging has brought me has been the push to try new foods and to retry foods I thought I didn't like. Fennel, winter squash, saffron and parsnips are but a few of the foods or ingredients that have made their way into my kitchen and into my heart. Brussels spouts are another food that I was convinced I didn't like before I started blogging but now enjoy a great deal. My first real Brussels sprouts adventure was with a Tyler Florence recipe and my latest is this healthy side dish of Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Lemon & Poppy Seeds that I ran across in the November Whole Living Magazine.

In this recipe the sprouts are thinly sliced or shredded so that they are lighter in texture and the lemon juice and zest really brighten their flavor. This is a pretty and low calorie side dish perfect for a holiday dinner or an easy weeknight meal.

And in addition to being a low calorie addition to the plate, Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of Vitamins C & K and are a good source of folate, vitamin A, fiber, manganese and potassium, so load up on this dish and enjoy just a small portion of that green bean casserole!

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Lemon & Poppy Seeds
Catherine McCord. Whole Living Magazine (Nov. 2010)
(Serves 6-8)

1 lemon
1 lb Brussels sprouts, stem ends trimmed, finely sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
¼ cup low-sodium chicken stock

Using a vegetable peeler, peel 3 long strips of lemon zest, avoiding the white pith. Thinly slice zest; set aside. Squeeze 1 tablespoon lemon juice and toss with Brussels sprouts in a medium bowl.

Heat butter and oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté sprouts for 2 minutes, until bright green and tender. Add salt, pepper, garlic, zest, and poppy seeds and cook an additional 2 minutes. Pour in stock and cook 1 minute more. Serve.

Per serving: 74 calories; 2g saturated fat; 3g unsaturated fat; 5mg cholesterol; 7g carb; 21mg sodium; 3g protein; 16g fiber

Notes/Results: Light and tasty, this is a side dish that tastes great and won't weigh you down, making it a perfect addition to a holiday table. Shredding the sprouts makes for a pretty presentation, as do the lemon zest and poppy seeds mixed in. Once the Brussels sprouts are sliced, this recipe goes together in just a few minutes. I cooked these for a healthy cooking demo at Whole Foods last week and quite a few people who said they normally didn't like Brussels sprouts really liked them and took copies of the recipe. This one is a keeper.

I am sending these Brussels sprouts over to Reeni at Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice for her special edition of Side Dish Showdown: Thanksgiving. If you have a favorite Turkey Day side dish, you can link it to this event here.

And I am linking it to the Tuesday Hearth & Soul Blog Hop hosted by my pal girlichef as well as A Moderate Life, Hunger and Thirst, and Frugality and Crunchiness wth Christy.

Looking for more ways to love your Brussels Sprouts? Here are three delicious recipes featuring sprouts that I also enjoyed:

Tyler Florence's Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pancetta and Cranberries. The crispy, salty pancetta combines with the sweet tang of the cranberries and the balsamic vinegar for a delicious flavor and the separated leaves make it light and crisp.

Similar in flavor to Tyler's recipe but the sprouts are halved and roasted in this Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta from Chef James Fiala and from the Bryant Family Vineyard Cookbook. Simple and really good.

Finally Brussels sprouts go in soup too, as in this Fall Foliage Lemongrass Soup from Vegetarian Times. The subtle tang of the lemongrass worked well with the veggies in this one, although I would cut the sprouts into smaller pieces next time.

So what foods have you learned to love?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ditali Con Ceci E Vongole (Chickpeas and Clams) for "The Geometry of Pasta" Review

"The Perfect Shape + The Perfect Sauce = The Geometry of Pasta" is the theory behind the book, "The Geometry of Pasta" by Caz Hildebrand & Jacob Kenedy. I received this book to review several weeks ago and rather than sit idly on my review book pile, this one sat on my bedside table and was paged through bit by tasty bit.

A fascinating book with gorgeous black and white graphics of pasta shapes instead of photos--it goes from A (Agnolotti) to Z (Ziti / Candele) and through more pastas than I ever knew existed. Covering the history and use of each pasta shape, along with a recipe or two to make with them. The book touches on just about everything you can think of on the subject of true Italian pasta, including a tutorial on the basics of pasta and pasta sauce making, this is a book for pasta fans and aficionados who like a little science, history, philosophy and of course geometry thrown in. Hildebrand is an award-winning graphic designer who has produced cookbooks by acclaimed chefs and celebrities like Nigella Lawson, and Kenedy is a chef and co-owner of Bocca di Lupo, a popular, award-winning London restaurant, and together this pair has created a stylish book full of more than 100 drool-worthy authentic recipes.

It was difficult to choose a dish to make until I stumbled across the Ditali Con Ceci E Vongole (Chickpeas and Clams). I loved the idea of pureeing chickpeas into a creamy sauce and pairing it with fresh clams, plus I just happened to have a package of ditali waiting to be used.

Ditali Con Ceci E Vongole in Black & White
(in homage to The Geometry of Pasta!) ;-)

About Ditali and Ditalini, the book says, "Ditali and their smaller brethren ditalini are short tubes of pasta whose diameter is about the same as their length. Their name stems from ditale ("thimbles"), and thus dita ("finger"). Among the numerous other names, denti di vecchia ("old folks ' teeth") and denti di cavallo ("horse's teeth") stand out as amusing. Whilst they are an industrial pasta, ditali have been around since the 1800s. Small ones are usually served in brodo, larger ones in thicker soups. Both sizes come lisci ("smooth") or rigati ("ridged"), the latter pairing well with thicker sauces--such as Calabrese pasta ca trimma, the pasta cooked with potatoes and tossed in a sauce of beaten egg, pecorino, and parsley. Given their bead-like dimensions, they are one of the best for making necklaces, along with sedanini."

Ditali Con Ceci E Vongole (Chickpeas and Clams)
From "The Geometry of Pasta" by Caz Hildebrand & Jacob Kenedy

1/3 lb ditali*
1 1/3 cups cooked, drained chickpeas (2/3 lb)
1 1/3 cups chicken cooking liquid (or water, if using canned)
1 1/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 lb live clams
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
a decent pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped, divided
1 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh red chili (optional)

*Also good with this sauce--chifferi, rigati, farfalle, farfalle tonde, pasta mista, torchio

You need to start making the sauce about 10 minutes before your pasta is ready (just undercooked, probably a minute or so less than stated on the package), so time yourself accordingly.

Finely puree three-quarters of the chickpeas with their liquid. Heat a wide frying pan (large enough for the clams to fit into in a single layer, with some space to spare). When very hot, add 9 tablespoons of the oil, the clams, and the garlic all at once. Fry until the garlic starts to colour, then add the red pepper flakes and half of the parsley for just a second or 2 before the pureed and whole chickpeas. Let the sauce bubble away merrily. As the clams pop open, pick them out one by one (leave them in the shells), and set aside. When the last have popped, test the sauce for seasoning. Leave it to boil if necessary, until the sauce has the consistency of light cream. Add the drained pasta, along with the cooked clams, back to the pan with the remaining parsley, and let everything cook together until the sauce is as thick as heavy cream but still somewhat soupy.

Serve immediately with the remaining oil drizzled on top, and a scattering of fresh chili if you like.

Notes/Results: I really enjoyed this dish, it was different than anything I had ever tried before, with great texture and a nutty, slightly earthy flavor. There is something so satisfying about cooking clams and watching them open one-by-one while hearing each delicate "pop." Once your chickpeas are soaked and cooked (I cooked mine the day before or you can use canned if you want more convenience), this dish goes together very quickly and easily if mind the recipe and watch your timing to make the sauce as the pasta just finishes cooking. It is extremely filling and hearty and looks and tastes nice enough to serve to guests but is also simple enough for a weeknight dinner. I will make it again and play around with the chickpea sauce for other pasta shapes.

"The Geometry of Pasta" is a great addition for the reference and/or Italian sections of your cookbook library or it would be a fun holiday gift--along with some different pasta shapes, for a food-loving friend.

I am linking my delicious Ditali Con Ceci E Vongole (Chickpeas and Clams) to two favorite events this week--Ruth's fabulous Presto Pasta Nights, being hosted this week by Helen of Fuss Free Flavours and to the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop hosted by my pal girlichef as well as A Moderate Life, Hunger and Thirst, and Frugality and Crunchiness wth Christy.

Obligatory Disclosure: I was sent this book in the hopes that I would read and review it but no monetary compensation was received and as always, my thoughts, opinions and feedback are my own.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Things I Am Loving This Week--Back Again w/ Giada's Asian Chicken Salad, Homemade Herbal Cough Syrup & New Chocolate

If you have been reading or following my blog for a while, you'll know that Tuesdays were usually reserved for the Things I Am Loving This Week--those (mostly) food-related things that I am enjoying and want to share. Unfortunately, time has been scarce the last few weeks and I have not been good about doing my TIALTW posts regularly--so I am happy to bring it back this week.

First up--when I feel like I have been indulging a bit too much in heavier foods, I love a big tasty, colorful, full-of-good-stuff salad to lighten things up. This week it is Giada's colorful Asian Chicken Salad filling my salad plate as our theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs is "Out of Italy"--featuring recipes from cuisines other than Italian. Since I think it is a requirement for any Food Network star to have at least one Asian Chicken Salad recipe in their collection, I decided to give Giada's a whirl.

I wouldn't be me if I didn't make just a few changes of course. The recipe calls for a topper of chow mein noodles and I am not really a fan so I used some leftover wonton wrappers and a few spices to make some baked wonton strips instead. Spiced with a blend of sea salt, pepper, Chinese Five Spice and sesame seeds they make a much tastier and healthier topping in my opinion. I also doubled the Thai basil and mint and added a couple touches to the dressing with a bit of sesame oil, some lime juice and replacing the sugar with a little honey.

You can find Giada's recipe at the Food Network here.

Asian Chicken Salad
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
(Makes 4-6 Servings)

1 large carrot, peeled
3 cups shredded napa cabbage, from 1 small cabbage
3 cups shredded romaine lettuce, from 1 small lettuce
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and deveined, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh Thai basil leaves or fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 cups thinly sliced store-bought rotisserie chicken (about 2 small chicken breasts)
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted* see Cook's note
1 tablespoon toasted white or black sesame seeds

1/4 cup peanut or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, optional
1/2 cup chow mein noodles, for garnish

For the salad: Using a vegetable peeler, shave the carrot and add to a large salad bowl. Stir in the cabbage, lettuce, pepper, Thai basil, chicken, almonds, and sesame seeds.

For the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, if using.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well. Garnish with the chow mein noodles and serve.

*Cook's Note: To toast the slivered almonds, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 8 to 10 minutes until lightly golden. Cool completely before using.

Crispy Spiced Baked Wonton Strips
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 1 1/2 cups or so)

8 (or more) wonton wrappers
1/2 tsp Chinese Five Spice powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp sesame seeds
olive oil or canola spray

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.

Stack won ton wrappers and cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips. (A pizza cutter works perfectly for this). Mix seasoning powder In a small bowl. Arrange the strips in a single layer on the prepared pan. Spray strips very lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle evenly with the seasoning mix. Bake strips until golden brown and slightly crisp, about 6-7 minutes total.

Transfer strips to a plate to cool completely (strips will continue to crisp as they cool). Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Notes/Results: Loved this salad--refreshing, light but filling and great flavors and good crunch. I liked the changes I made, especially the wonton strips which are pretty addicting and add another layer of tastes with the spices. They would also be a great chip with the squares cut into triangles and served with a Asian-inspired dip. I would make this again with the changes.

You can check out what the other IHCC participants made for their "Out of Italy" choices by going to the post here and following the links.

Speaking of salad love, you will find the majority of the large "meal-sized" salads that I make on this blog are served on my beloved salad/bowl plate. About the size of a dinner plate but with raised sides, it is one of my favorite dishes. Love it!

While I don't love having yucky coughing, wheezing bronchitis flare-ups, I do love a good herbal home remedy like this Thyme Syrup, a homemade cough syrup from a favorite book "Drink to Your Health: Delicious Juices, Teas, Soups, and Smoothies" by Anne McIntyre. I started making this cough syrup last fall and it tastes much better than nasty bottled cough syrup. Although there is a lot of sugar in it, I feel good knowing it is local honey and pure organic, unbleached sugar providing the sweetness instead of chemicals and preservatives.

Does it work? Well, I have been using it all weekend for my latest bit of lung nastiness and I find it very soothing to both my throat and chest and it does calm down my coughing. Between the syrup and a little medication help to open up my airways, I am feeling MUCH better. I have taken to making it in double batches and used lemon thyme from my herb garden in my last run, which added another layer of flavor. In a cute bottle this would be a fun little gift for an under-the-weather friend, along with a little chocolate and a stack of trashy magazines of course! ;-)

McIntyre says, "This sweet fragrant syrup from Greece makes an excellent remedy for all kinds of coughs. Thyme is highly antiseptic and, with its expectorant action, chases away infection and cleans congestion from the chest. A perfect syrup for children with it's smooth velvety texture and delicious taste."

Thyme Syrup
"Drink to Your Health" by Anne McIntyre
(Makes About 2 Cups)

2 oz fresh thyme leaves or 1 oz dried
2 1/2 cups boiling water
3/4 cup honey
1 1/2 cups sugar

Place the thyme in a teapot. Pour boiling water over, cover, and leave to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes. Heat the infusion with the honey and sugar in a stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Stir the mixture as it starts to thicken and skim any scum from the surface. Leave to cool.

Pour into a cork-stoppered bottle and store in the refrigerator. Drink 2 teaspoons, 3 times daily for chronic problems, and every 2 hours for acute conditions in children.

Of course you know I loves me some good chocolate and I finally got to try one of the new Vosges bars, the Black Salt Caramel Bar. With black Hawaiian sea salt, burnt sugar caramel and dark chocolate (70% cacao) it sounded pretty perfect.

The box says, "Black Hawaiian salt or Hiwa Kai is a blend of sea salt and volcanic charcoal. The salt is harvested naturally in ocean pools that have formed from past volcanic eruptions. The salt's striking hue is matched only by its flavor on your palate--slightly nutty and smoky--the perfect combination with caramel and dark chocolate."

The verdict: The 70% cacao is creamy and firm, the caramel inside is soft and gooey and there is just the right amount of smokiness and salt. This is a very rich bar with a somewhat sophisticated taste--it would be great paired with a cappuccino.

I think the simpler Barcelona Bar with it's deep milk chocolate, sea salt and smoked almonds is still my first true Vosges love but this bar is delicious and comes very close--so definitely feeling the love for this one. ;-)

So there you have it--the Things I Am Loving This Week. What are you enjoying right now?

BTW--This post and the Asian Chicken Salad and homemade Thyme Syrup are heading to the Hearth 'n Soul Tuesday Blog Hop hosted by my friend girlichef and other fabulous bloggers (A Moderate Life, Hunger and Thirst, and Frugality and Crunchiness wth Christy) and featuring good food cooked from the heart that feeds the body and the soul.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Giada's Pasta e Fagioli: Classic Italian Comfort Food for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie Sundays)

I have comfort food on the brain this week and this week's soup it the epitome of a hug in a bowl, Pasta e Fagioli by Giada De Laurentiis. Hearty pasta and bean soup with smoky flavor from the pancetta Giada adds, (or in this case the thick-cut, nitrate-free bacon I used), and the heady flavor of rosemary and thyme. So thick it is more like a pasta dish then a soup. Mmm..mmm...good!

This recipe can be found in "Giada's Family Dinners" (pg 18-19) or online at Food Network here.

Giada says, "This is the classic Italian comfort-food soup, here livened up with fresh herbs. If you don't have any thyme or rosemary, feel free to substitute dried. Any small shaped pasta will do."

Pasta e Fagioli
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis
(6 Servings)

4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup chopped onion
3 oz pancetta or bacon, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 (14.5-oz) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can cannellini beans (my addition--see Notes/Results)
3/4 cup elbow macaroni
2 heaping Tbsp tomato paste (my addition--see Notes/Results)
freshly ground black pepper
pinch red pepper flakes, (optional)
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Wrap the thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf in a piece of cheesecloth and secure closed with kitchen twine.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, pancetta or bacon, and garlic and saute until the onion is tender, about 3 minutes. Add the broth, beans, and sachet of herbs. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to medium and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes. Discard the sachet.

Puree 1 cup of the bean mixture in a blender until smooth. Before putting the puree back into the soup, add the macaroni and boil with the lid on until it is tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Return the puree to the remaining soup in the saucepan and stir well. Season the soup with ground black pepper and red pepper flakes.

Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with some Parmesan and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil just before serving.

Notes/Results: Absolutely delicious, with so much flavor and also very quick and simple to make. My only real complaint is that as the recipe is written, the soup comes out a sort of pale, slightly anemic-looking pink color, not at all pretty. Two heaping tablespoons of tomato paste made it much more visually appealing and added a little richness to the taste of the soup. Being a bean lover, I also added a can of cannellini beans to the soup for more hearty flavor. (Oh yeah, and if a little extra garlic and bacon happened to fall in too, well... I can't help that can I?) You may also want to have extra stock on hand as the soup soaks it all up. (Personally I like it that way--but if you prefer brothy over chunky, you'll need it.). Great served with a little green salad--this soup is so hearty it makes a delicious meal. I would definitely make this again.

I am doing quadruple duty with this post--in addition to Souper Sundays, I am linking it to I Heart Cooking Clubs for this next week's theme of "Served Family Style." I am early this week, but you will be able to see all the family-style dishes as they are posted by going to the site and following the links.

I am also sending it to Ruth's weekly Presto Pasta Nights event, being hosted this week by my friend (and fellow Hawaii blogger), Claudia at Honey From Rock. Claudia with be rounding up a tom of delicious pasta dishes on her blog on Friday, so be sure to check it out.


And finally, classic comfort food belongs at the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop, (food from your hearth that feeds and nourishes your soul). I will be linking it to this weekly event, hosted by my pal girlichef, along with A Moderate Life, Hunger and Thirst, and Frugality and Crunchiness wth Christy.

Now lets take a look at who is in the Souper Sunday kitchen this week.

Reshmi from A Feast for the Eyes and Stomach has a bowl of comforting Fish Soup to share this week and says, "Fall is almost here and I couldn't stop thinking of warm and cozy foods, especially my favourite soups! A warm spicy soup on a breezy Autumn day is something that seems to be very essential on your dining table! Serve the Fish soup warm with a fresh bread!"

Danielle from Cooking for My Peace of Mind is here with Rich and Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup and says, "A simple soup with complex flavors. There's more to this soup than meets the eye...and plenty that'll please the pallet. If you're wanting a quick soup, that tastes've come to the right place. The only ingredient that might not be a staple in your pantry (errr... liquor cabinet) would be dry vermouth. You don't have to use can substitute it with more chicken stock. However....highly I recommend you get yourself some because it really does add a lot to the flavor of this soup."

Amritha from AK's Vegetarian Recipe World made a healthy Horse Gram Soup (horse gram is a type of bean), and says. "When I bought horse gram 2 weeks back, I was unaware of the goodness it had. I just knew it was good for health in general terms and I bought it just for sake of a healthy addition to our regular food. But I was really amazed to know the actual nutritional facts about horse gram. The climate is changing and its getting cold. San Diego is seeing some rains for the past coupe of years. I wouldn't call it rain but this drizzle is also a great boon to us. This great climate calls for a hot soup right???"

Umm from Taste of Pearl City is back this week with a Turkish Lentil Soup and says, "Tired after working all day, or a lazy weekend, not feel like cooking then this is the recipe for you. Easy, delicious and healthy. I actually got this recipe from one of my friend here in Germany Reshmi of lecker and yummy recipes, who is been heavily influenced by lots of Turkish and Arab cuisine by all her friends. First time I had this soup for Iftar in the Turkish mosque, which tasted absolutely amazing, immediately the very next day I made this."

Tanvi of Sinfully Spicy has a vegetarian Minty Spinach & White Corn Soup to share and says, "...this is my mom’s recipe which I slightly changed to make it more filling and hearty. The white corn lends a nice bite to the smooth and silky texture due to spinach.Avoid using sweet corn coz it make the soup overly sweet!I like to keep the consistency slightly thick and the vegetables chunky so that it doesn't taste like baby food.The corn can be replaced by potatoes as a variation and for the vegan version you can replace milk with tofu puree and do away with the cream garnish."

Please join me in welcoming Melodie from Breastfeeding Moms Unite, making her first appearance at Souper Sundays this week. Melodie has a classic Potato Leek Soup to share and says, "Last weekend I went to the local Farmer’s market and picked up a bunch of seasonal organic vegetables. ...I planned my week’s menu based on the tables of veggies I saw. Daikon for a Chinese stir fry, tomatoes for a hearty tomato sauce, potatoes, leeks, kale and dill for a yummy potato leek soup. Except when I was in the middle of making my soup I smelled the fresh dill and turned up my nose at the combination. My dill has now wilted and I have guilty veggie-waster remorse. But the soup turned out great and a batch of spelt biscuits turned out better than I could have asked for."

Heather from girlichef skillfully combined a classic pairing into one dish with her Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons and says, "To this day, I cannot make tomato soup without first grilling or roasting the tomatoes and garlic. And YES, there's ALWAYS garlic. ... While you're reheating your soup...make yourself a grilled cheese sandwich. OR!!! Better yet...add a little whimsy by making mini-grilled cheese garnish for your tomato soup! You can use any type of bread and cheese you desire. I tend to crave the American "cheese" on white bread variety that I grew up with, for this particular application."

Zibi from Fresh Slowcooking used her crock pot for some luscious Creamy Cheesy Slow Cooker Onion Soup and says, "Browning the onions before cooking them in your slow cooker gives this onion soup an almost smokey, roasted flavour that is guaranteed to warm you up. The addition of grated potatoes adds to the creamy, melt in your mouth texture. An easy alternative to French onion soup.In Canada ,this Monday is Thanksgiving. A great way to enjoy leftover turkey is to stir some into this onion soup, making it hearty and comforting."

Ahkeela from Torviewtoronto made a hearty, creamy and comforting Vegetable Noodles Soup this week, full of all kinds of vegetables, thin noodles, spices and cream. About her soup, Ahkeela says, "Easy to make with seasonal vegetables and it is a filling soup."

Stephanie from Dispensing Happiness is back again this week with a soul-filling Tomato Bisque and says, "A most amazing soup, & a nice way to welcome the cooler (or so I've been told) weather. To save myself a step & also keep from making two batches, one vegetarian & one omnivore, I skipped the 'cooking bacon' stage. Instead, I added olive oil for extra fat & sprinkled in a bit of smoked salt. I also added a bit more at the end. In addition, a generous handful of grated cheese (combination Parmesan & smoked Gouda) was stirred in before serving. The result was a rich, smoky & wonderful soup. Requested by the second grader for his school lunch. Twice."

Roz from La Bella Vita has a bright and filling Broccoli, Dried Cranberry and Smokey Bacon Salad and says, "Nothing gourmet or complicated about this recipe, just easy and filled with lots of flavor. Oh yea, there's a lot of broccoli in this deal, so it's a little bit healthy for us too. If you want it to be more healthy for you, then eliminate/reduce the mayonnaise. ... I used the thickest-sliced, meatiest, smokiest bacon I could find . . . none of this mamsy-pamsy thin, complete-white-fat-stuff that pretends to be bacon allowed! Plus I used a full pound of this thick bacon, instead of 6 oz. of skinny, fatty bacon. I also replaced ordinary raisins with more flavorful and colorful dried cranberries."

Janet from The Taste Space has two salads to show this week. About the first, this colorful Japanese Tomato Tofu Caprese Salad, she says, "I would feel guilty using my heirloom cherry tomatoes in anything but a salad and I knew exactly what I wanted to make with them first: Momofuku‘s Tomato Tofu Caprese Salad (spotted via Belm Blog). This is fusion cuisine at its best, where the classic Italian flavours from the caprese salad (tomato, mozzarella, basil and balsamic vinegar) are infused with Japanese flair."

Her next salad, this Roasted Tomato and Lentil Salad with Caramelized Sherry Vinaigrette, about she says, "Adapted from A Crafty Lass, this is a delicious lentil salad with oven-roasted cherry tomatoes and a caramelized sherry vinaigrette. For texture, raisins add some chewiness and toasted almonds add crunch. The basil ties everything together nicely. It is a sweet salad, so be gentle with the dressing. I halved the original recipe and then halved the dressing recipe again. Add to taste."

An excellent bunch of soups and salads this week! Thanks to everyone who joined in this week. If you have a soup, salad or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the side bar for all of the details.

***Souper Sunday Birthday Announcement***

Souper Sunday is turning 2 next week--can you believe it has been two full years of weekly soups?! And of course sandwiches and salads joined the party about 6 months later. Next week we will be celebrating with a recap of my favorite soups I made over the past year and hopefully all of you, my Souper Sunday friends will join in next week too, bring a soup, salad or sammie for one "souper" round-up!

Have a great week!