Showing posts with label meat. Show all posts
Showing posts with label meat. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Jamie's Avocado, Pancetta & Pine Nut Salad: Making Me Happy with Six Ingredients

Simple dishes with just a few fresh ingredients that come together quickly and taste incredible make me happy--like this delicious Avocado, Pancetta & Pine Nut Salad from Jamie Oliver. Found in an old issue (October 2007) of Delicious magazine, it is my pick for this week's "Happy Days with Jamie" theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs. I love the fact that it has six ingredients, is on the table in a snap, and when served with my favorite soft chewy garlic bread from a local bakery, makes a satisfying week-night dinner.

Jamie says, "This salad is great with warm crusty bread and a lovely glass of wine."

Avocado, Pancetta & Pine Nut Salad
Courtesy of Jamie Oliver, Delicious Magazine Oct.07
(Serves 4)

splash of olive oil
12 thin slices flat pancetta
1/3 cup (50 g) pine nuts
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 ripe avocados, flesh cut into wedges
4 big handfuls baby spinach leaves

Heat a splash of oil in a non-stick frypan over medium-high heat. Fry the pancetta for 2-3 minutes until crispy. Remove and set aside. In the same pan, lightly toast pine nuts for 1-2 minutes until golden.

Make a dressing by whisking the balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil with salt and pepper. Taste to make sure it's balanced--add a little more oil or vinegar if you need to.

Mix the avocado with spinach, pancetta and pine nuts. Season well and drizzle over the dressing.

Notes/Results: So very simple, so very good--the components of this salad work well together, making the most of a few simple ingredients. Of course in my book it is hard to go wrong with pancetta, avocado and toasted nuts, and the simple oil and vinegar dressing lets all of the flavors come out. With lots of crispy pancetta and rich creamy avocado mixed into the baby spinach it is filling and feels like a meal. I like that the pine nuts go right into the same pan where the pancetta cooked to toast up as they take on the delicious flavor of the meat. You could always substitute good bacon for the pancetta and swap out the nuts if you are not a pine nut fan, but the combination really is lovely. It was perfect to toss together in a few minutes for an easy dinner on a busy weeknight and it would also be a great starter for company. I will be making this again.

You can check out how the other IHCC participants found their "Happy Days" by going to the post here and following the links.

What kinds of foods / recipes make you happy?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gettin' Cheesy With It--A Trio of Grilled Cheese Sammies & a Review of "Grilled Cheese, Please!" By Laura Werlin

Say cheese! Grilled cheese that is. I have been consuming a lot of warm cheesy sandwiches lately with my visits to the local Melt Grilled Cheese Truck and then a review copy of "Grilled Cheese, Please!: 50 Scrumptiously Cheesy Recipes" by Laura Werlin showed up at my door. Talk about drool-inducing! This little (6 x 7 3/4-inch) book is full of ooey, gooey, melted cheese sammies in all their glory.

Author Laura Werlin is a highly respected authority on cheese, a cookbook author (4 books, including the award-winning "Great Grilled Cheese"), and a proponent of American cheeses so she knows her stuff--not only providing 50 innovative recipes, but also giving a primer on making the perfect grilled cheese. The book's introduction features information on choosing the best bread and cheeses for your sandwich, tips (like the importance taking the extra step of grating the cheese instead of slicing for better meltability), the best pans and methods for cooking, and the proper steps to achieving grilled cheese nirvana.

Recipes are broken down into 8 chapters--Just Cheese, Meat and Cheese, Anything Goes, Veggies and Cheese, Global Grilled Cheese, Grilled Cheese on the Go, Regional American Grilled Cheese and Old Favorites and Modern Sides. So many sandwiches, so little time--I managed to "road test" three different and unique sandwiches and one easy side dish for my review.

Here in Hawaii you can open a refrigerator and usually you will find a jar or container of kim chee, Korean spicy fermented cabbage--pungent with garlic. You'll see it often on menus here too--Kim Chee burgers, Kim Chee fried rice, and even on the occasional sandwich, so I had to try Werlin's Smokey Kim Cheese. (Love that name!) I liked the fact that she paired the spicy cabbage mix with one of my cheese favorites--smoked Gouda, and then added sliced ham because she likes the pairing of smokey foods with spicy kim chee.

This sandwich is made on a mini baguette or sub roll with a slightly hollowed out center to hold the cabbage. It was amazing--the combination of spicy and smokey really does work here and I have made this sandwich three times already and foresee myself making it a lot more. Served with a little extra kim chee on the side (or the Pickled Cucumbers below), it's delicious.

After deciding to make the pimento cheese for my review of "Quick Fix Southern" last week and creating my masterpiece Meatloaf and Pimento Cheese Sandwich, I got to wondering if there would be a recipe for Pimento Grilled Cheese in this book. Yep--it's the first recipe in the Regional American Grilled Cheese chapter so of course I had to try it.

Werlin provides her favorite pimento cheese recipe in the book but my hips did not need another batch of pimento cheese sitting about so I used the one I had already made. Here the pimento cheese is mixed with chopped celery (a nod to the fact it is often served with celery), and it is sandwiched in brioche, challah or egg bread. Unfortunately none of the three grocery stores near me had any of those breads, so I went with a ciabatta roll. Still it was very good with the pimento cheese mixture melting nicely and contrasted by the crunch of the celery. I still like my Meatloaf & Pimento Cheese a little better but I may have to combine the ideas and try the M&PC grilled, just for research purposes of course. ;-)

I don't think you could review this book without trying the unique Chips and Guacamole Grilled Cheese. I mean come on--sourdough slathered with tortilla chip compound butter, housing a mix of Colby, Monterey Jack & goat cheese, crisp bacon and creamy guacamole?!? What's not to love?!? This is the most labor intensive of the three sandwiches I made and it is somewhat messy to eat but just grab a few napkins and let the tortilla crumbs fall where they may--trust me, you won't care once you take a bite. I made my guacamole on the zesty side--with a little jalapeno thrown in and it was genius--so many flavors and textures wrapped up in one cheesy bundle of love. Another make-again recipe for me.

Since you REALLY need to try this one for yourself here's the recipe. It can also be found here at the Andrews McMeel website.

Chips and Guacamole Grilled Cheese
From "Grilled Cheese Please!" --Andrews McMeel Publishing
(Makes 4 Sandwiches)

"In this recipe, tortilla chips are on the outside of the bread to give the sandwich its corn-like flavor and to give you the ability to enjoy all the flavors—guacamole, bacon, cheeses, and corn chips—all at once."

8 slices bacon
8 large tortilla chips (about 2 ounces)
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
8 slices sourdough bread
½ cup guacamole (recipe follows; or use purchased, preferably one with tomato in it)
2 tablespoons peeled, seeded, diced Roma tomato (see Note)
4 ounces Colby cheese, coarsely grated
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, coarsely grated
4 ounces goat cheese

Line a plate with paper towels. In a large nonstick skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until very crisp. Drain the bacon on the paper towels.

Remove the bacon fat from the pan and wipe the pan with a paper towel, but do not wash it. Set aside.

To make the tortilla chip butter: Put the chips in the bowl of a food processor and process until the texture is very fine, similar to sand. Alternatively, place the chips in a sturdy plastic bag. Using a meat mallet or other heavy object, pound the chips until they are the texture of sand. Put the butter in a medium bowl and add the ground chips. Using a fork, work the chip “sand” and butter together until well mixed. The mixture will be somewhat stiff.

To assemble: Spread the butter mixture on one side of each slice of bread. Place 4 slices, butter-chip mixture side down, on your work surface. Spread 2 tablespoons of the guacamole on each slice of bread. Sprinkle the tomato on top of the guacamole. Follow with the colby and Monterey Jack cheeses. Dot with small pieces of the goat cheese. Finish by placing 2 bacon pieces on each sandwich. Top with the remaining bread slices, buttered side up.

For stovetop method: Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Put the sandwiches into the pan, cover, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the undersides are golden brown. Watch carefully because the chips in the butter can burn easily. Turn the sandwiches, pressing each one firmly with a spatula to compress the filling slightly. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the undersides are well browned. Turn the sandwiches once more, press firmly with the spatula again, cook for 1 minute, and remove from the pan. Let cool for 5 minutes. Cut in half and serve.

For sandwich maker method: Use your sandwich maker for this sandwich only if it has variable heat settings. Otherwise, it will cook too hot and burn the chips on the bread without melting the cheese. To use your sandwich maker, follow directions for assembly above. Cook according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Note: There’s no need to use the tomato if your guacamole already has tomato in it.

I tried a quick batch of the Pickled Cucumbers, one of the handful of side dishes in the book. A basic recipe, the cucumbers are marinated in cider vinegar, water, sugar, salt and dill. They are great to snack on and as Werlin pints out--they are refreshing and cut the richness of a grilled cheese. I have been happily munching on these--liking their sweet/salty flavor.

Excuse the bad blurry photo--I took about 10 and for some reason they were all burry
but I was too lazy to go back and take more. :-)

As you can see these are not your standard grilled cheese sandwiches--they are modern, unique and as the title of the book claims "scrumptiously cheesy" too. With so many delicious sounding recipes like Spinach, Egg and Manchego, Mozzarella with Crispy Prosciutto and Broccoli Rabe, Cheese and Cherries a la Lynne, Pizza Grilled Cheese, Artichoke Dip Grilled Cheese, The Greek, Harvest Melt, and Erika's PB & Cheese, there is a little something here for everyone. The recipes I tried were all very tasty, the recipes were easy to follow, with some great tips and the book has quite a few gorgeous pictures (far better than mine!) of many of the sandwiches that make you want to jump up and get cooking.

"Grilled Cheese, Please!" would be a great gift combined with a pan, or some gourmet cheese and bread for your favorite cheese lover, foodie, college student, etc. Since my visits to the Melt Truck cost me roughly $7-$9 for the sandwich, plus soup, (yikes!) you can bet that I'll take the tricks and tips learned from Werlin and do more of my occasional cheese indulging at home! A fun book to add to the cookbook shelf.

Obligatory Disclosure Statement: I was sent "Grilled Cheese, Please!" by the publisher free, to review if I chose to, but I was not compensated for my review and of course as always my thoughts, cooking experiences with the book and opinions are entirely my own.

So what's your favorite grilled cheese addition/ingredient?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Classic Pimento Cheese, Oats & Bacon Meatloaf and a Cookbook Review of "Quick-Fix Southern" by Rebecca Lang

I confess that I don't know much about Southern cooking or do much any Southern cooking at home so when a review copy of "Quick-Fix Southern: Homemade Hospitality in 30 Minutes or Less" by Rebecca Lang showed up at my door my first instinct was to put it aside and choose another volume from the large stack of cookbooks waiting to be reviewed. Then those biscuits on the cover slowly drew me in, as well as the promise of quick and easy recipes instead of the time-consuming cooking normally associated with recipes from the South.

Author Rebecca Lang is a contributing editor for Southern Living magazine and, a long-time food writer, and accomplished cooking instructor who credits her mother and grandmothers with her appreciation for Southern food. This small (7 1/2' x 9", 178 pages) paperback packs in 115 recipes divided into 10 different themes--Rise and Shine, Sipping on the Screened Porch, Appetizers and Snacks, Picnics and Packables, Salads, Soups & Sandwiches, Tailgates and Gatherings, Busy Weeknight Suppers, Comforting Casseroles, Girls Night In, and Southern Sweets--it's enough to make a girl swoon. ;-) The book also includes a section on The Basics of Cooking Quick in the South, sources for key Southern ingredients, and has lots of cooking tips and bits of Southern history sprinkled in for flavor.

With many delicious dishes to choose from like Three-Cheese Grits, Lime and Mint Juleps, Ribeyes with Bourbon Pecan Butter, Mama's Baked Beans, Chicken Boudine, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Double Chocolate Scoop Pie, it was hard to pick a couple of recipes to "road test." I knew for sure that I needed to try some pimento cheese since I have heard so much about this Southern staple. There were two to choose from in the book--White Pimento Cheese and Classic Pimento Cheese. Since this would be the first pimento cheese I have tried I decided I should start with the classic.

Lang says, "Every self-respecting Southern cook has a pimento cheese recipe. From slathering it on a sandwich to serving it as a dip or a stuffing for celery, no Yankee can get far down South without falling in love with this signature combination of simple ingredients. The one rule is to remember is to always grate your own cheese. Preshredded cheese simply will not do. This classic version is best served between two slices of soft white bread."

Classic Pimento Cheese
"Quick Fix Southern" by Rebecca Lang
(Makes 1 3/4 Cups)

1 (10 oz) block extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 (2 oz) jar diced pimentos, drained
2 Tbsp finely diced white onion
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Grate the Cheddar cheese using the large holes of a box grater. Combine the cheese, mayonnaise, pimentos, onion and Worcestershire sauce in a medium mixing bowl. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Notes/Results: So the South may have something here--the first few bites I took, I thought it was pretty good but then after it sat overnight I found this interesting tangy combination of flavors kind of addicting. Not something I would normally make or think I would enjoy (cheese, mayo & pimentos?), I liked it more than I wanted to. It was an easy little appetizer to toss together and something I would make again for a Southern themed party.

The second recipe I tried was Oats and Bacon Meatloaf--yes, I know meatloaf is not really the most classic Southern dish out there, but the heart wants what the heart wants and mine really, really wanted a meatloaf sandwich. ;-)

This is a relatively basic meatloaf with old-fashioned rolled oats to bind it, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce to season, and a little bacon cooked on top. (Never a bad thing in my book!) It resulted in a moist, meaty loaf that held together well, was good warm and even better cold in a sandwich--my favorite way to enjoy meatloaf.

Speaking of enjoying a meatloaf sandwich--I may have created my new favorite Southern dish by making a sandwich with the meatloaf and a layer of pimento cheese. A very flavorful combination--total yum in fact. Although Lang recommends the pimento cheese on soft white bread, I felt my combination needed a little more substance and my body needed more fiber, so I used a whole grain bread instead. This made for a delicious lunch--I guess I should have whipped up some Classic Sweet Tea to enjoy with it.

Overall "Quick-Fix Southern" is an enjoyable cookbook with a good variety of fast and easy, delectable Southern recipes and clear, simple to follow instructions that make it appropriate for all levels of cooks. It would be a good book for cooks and foodies wanting some delicious Southern charm but without putting forth a lot of fuss, time and effort. I tagged several additional recipes to make so I will pull this book off of the shelf again.

Obligatory Disclosure Statement: I was sent "Quick-Fix Southern" by the publisher free but was not compensated for my review and of course as always my thoughts, cooking experiences with the book and opinions are entirely my own.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Clean Eating's Picadillo Chowder: A "Super Bowl" of Healthy Soup for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

Happy Sunday! Whether you are watching the Super Bowl or enjoying a "souper bowl" of soup like this hearty, healthy Picadillo Chowder I adapted from the current issue of Clean Eating magazine, I hope you are enjoying the day.

Clean Eating says, "In Latin America, a picadillo usually consists of finely chopped well-seasoned meat and vegetables served alongside a bed of rice. Here, we've transferred the concept to the soup pot, turning it into a healthy chowder meant to spice up your cold winter nights."

I loved the concept of this recipe but I did made several changes--subbing ground bison for the pork, increasing the amount of brown rice, increasing the beans and adding kidney beans to the black beans called for in the recipes, adding tomatoes (good for lycopene and vitamin C and makes for a prettier broth too), increasing the seasonings and subbing out cilantro for the parsley garnish. (All changes are noted in red below) It resulted in a very flavorful, hearty but not too heavy bowl of soup.

Picadillo Chowder
Clean Eating Magazine, February 2011
(Serves 4)
Hands On Time: 30 Minutes / Total Time: 1 Hour

1 lb lean ground pork (I subbed bison)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
32 oz low-sodium fat-free chicken broth
1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed (added 1 can of beans)
(added 1 can of no-salt kidney beans)
(added one package Pomi chopped tomatoes)
1/4 cup brown rice (used 1 cup)
1 tsp ground cumin (used 2 heaping tsps)
1 tsp chili powder (used 2 tsps)
juice 1 lime (used 1 and 1/2)
salt and black pepper to taste
chopped fresh parsley for garnish, optional (used cilantro)

Place a large stockpot on medium heat. Add pork and onion and cook for 3 minutes or until pork is opaque and onion begins to turn translucent. Stir in garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.

Remove pot from the heat, pour pork mixture into a heat-proof colander and drain fat from meat. Return pork mixture to pot and add broth. Stir in beans, rice, cumin and chili powder. Bring chowder to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Stir in lime juice and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes.

Notes/Results: A filling and tasty soup--almost like a brothy chili. The lean ground meat and brown rice with the beans provide lots of protein and fiber. The cumin adds that warm, slightly smoky flavor which goes nicely with the kick of chili and the brightness of the lime juice. (Clean Eating sometimes holds back a bit on the seasonings so I added more--clean eating doesn't have to mean less flavor!) It also needed a good pinch of salt and some black pepper to pull out all the flavors. Another soup that is even better the next day when the flavors are blended together and more pronounced. I would make this again.

It looks like we have some hearty soups, salads and sammies in this Super Bowl Sunday edition of Souper Sundays--let's take a look.

From Michelle at Ms. Enplace, it's Creole Vegetable Soup, or "Wisdom Tooth Soup" as it is known in her house. She says, "The Husband made Creole Vegetable Soup for me years ago when I had my wisdom teeth out. He called his dad to get the recipe. I still have it scribbled somewhere. Chopped everything itty bitty knowing my condition. Worked all day while I was passed out on codeine. For true. It makes me faint. He chopped, boiled, shredded, simmered. And then we ate. Then I ran to the bathroom. Apparently codeine makes me puke too. It took a while to shake the teasing that followed. Both of us."

Julie from Little Bit of Everything made a creamy Wild Rice soup and says, "There's something hearty and almost meaty (or so I tried to tell Tim) about Wild Rice Soup. When I told Tim I was making Wild Rice Soup, he said chicken and wild rice soup? I said no, besides the bacon, there's no meat in this recipe but aren't you happy it does have bacon it? Actually lots of bacon. This recipe called for 1 pound of bacon, I scaled it down to 1/2 pound. Seriously, a pound of bacon?!! Like many soups, this one is better on day two or even day three."

Lovely Lori from Fake Food Free has Green Chili with Pork and Chickpeas to share and says, "When you first read this title you might have thought of chilies as in peppers. That wouldn’t be completely off the mark. This dish does contain green chilies, but it is also a twist on the classic that can be found everywhere from Texas to Cincinnati and in between. I have had this recipe for several years and I make it at least once every winter. It is such a nice break from red chili with its beans and ground beef. Over time, I’ve adjusted it to my tastes. I add canned green chilies along with salsa verde and I use less pork."

Pam from Sidewalk Shoes has a Chicken Vegetable Soup to share but wants to be all about the topping, a yummy Parsley Pesto from her freezer. Pam says, "It’s about what is floating (not quite attractively) on top of the soup. The garnish. See, what happened, is that as I was rifling through the freezer, trying to use up some veggies frozen during last summer’s surplus, I stumbled upon a ziploc bag. A ziploc bag containing Parsley Pesto and I thought…hey, that is why I make and freeze these things…to use them! Only I usually forget. Only this time I didn’t. And it was good, added just the right touch to my basic, no frills, soup. So, this is just a tip, a reminder, don’t have naked soup. Garnish it."

Gwen from Simply Healthy Family tried a Sauerkraut and Sausage Soup and says, "This recipe came from my '1 Stock 100 Soups' Cook Book. I altered it a bit, omitting the dumplings and sour cream and I added some potatoes, turnips and parsnips that I had to use and to make it heartier. I hesitated making this soup thinking the kids wouldn't even touch it but to my utter amazement, each and every one of my 4 kids had seconds or third helpings! You just never know I tell you. Simmering the Sauerkraut made it much milder and even sweet some how.This soup was a big hit in our home and will make your tummies warm and happy during this crazy Winter weather!"

Denise (aka Denny) of Oh Taste n See made a Red Kidney Bean Salad with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Mini Peppers and says, "If there is a dish that has innumerable ways of making it, or no real set way of making it, its a salad. You can throw just about anything edible together and call it a ‘salad’. That's the beauty of the thing. Verdict: I was bored with the usual salad with cucumber, this was a great variation. The crunchy peppers, with the tangy sundried tomatoes drizzled with the spicy citrusy dressing was very refreshing. The beans made sure it was also very filling."

It's a colorful Black Bean, Cilantro and Apricot Salad for Janet from The Taste Space. She says, "The next day, when I tasted it, I was floored. This was an “Oh my gosh, this salad is SO GOOD” moment (it really needs the overnight marinade, by the way). There was enough extra marinade that it was used as the dressing once the spinach was added. I never would have thought to pair all these ingredients together, but the spinach was the perfect accent. It was a great lunch for work, since I packed the spinach separately. Filling, tasty and healthy – what else could you want?"

A warm Souper Sunday welcome to Nashira from Plateful, joining us for the first time this week, all the way from Qatar and with both a salad and a sandwich to share. First up, her Spiced, Colorful, Tangy and Crunchy Salad with Sausage, Olives and Vegetables. She says, "Toss quickly this mildly spiced fresh salad, packed with nutrients, to go with your meals. This recipe adds a delicious crunch and a brilliant splash of color to your eat well goals. This, along with the heat from the pickled jalapeno, makes it a totally irresistable salad. Use firm, fresh vegetables and leaves. Make sure to rinse well before slicing. For a better crunch, you can add icerberg lettuce instead of frisee."

About her hearty Grilled Chicken Mortadella Sandwich, Nashira says, "This is another no fuss recipe. All you need to do is fill two slices of Italian bread with the ingredients and grill--nothing can go wrong. My family enjoys the balance of flavors and textures offered by this delicious, warm sandwich. I hope you try it and enjoy it too." Welcome to Souper Sundays Narisha!

Roz of la bella vita made a Sun-Dried Turkey Burgers with Basil Aioli and says, "It is completely outstanding! No lie, friends! You've got to add this to your healthy recipes file! It is truly the best of the last three healthy recipes that I've posted BY FAR! Once again it is from Cooking Light's "Fresh Food Fast" cookbook, with my own adaptations and additions (that made a big difference!); a resource that is shocking my family and me for the tasty, yet good-for-us recipes that are provided. I'm just amazed! You'll never know that this recipe is actually good for you! And isn't that one of the goals that eating more healthfully is all about: Enjoyment!?"

Libby from The Allergic Kid tried her son's idea for dinner, resulting in these healthy Flatbread Tacos. Libby says, "I could almost see the wheels turning, as he blurted out "Make your own pizza tacos!" which combined his two favorite meals, pizza and make your own tacos. Did he want pizza toppings on tortillas or the other way around? It turned out he wanted the soft dough of a pizza and the do it himself element of taco night at our house.I was sold. Clearly, I need to start asking my kid these kind of questions more often!"

A little something delicious for everyone this week! Thanks to all who joined in. If you have a soup, salad or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on my side bar for all of the details.

Enjoy your week!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tomato Soup with Pancetta (& a Grilled Cheese): Comfort Food for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

After partaking of Melt, (a fairly new food truck here in Hawaii that offers variations of grilled cheese sandwiches and a daily soup for dipping) a few weeks ago, I have had grilled cheese and tomato soup on the brain ever since.

Bacon Melt & Tomato Soup (with pickled veggies) from Melt

Enter the fact that it is Potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs and I decided to try a home version using Giada's Tomato Soup with Pancetta. I thought the recipe sounded interesting with it's pancetta and onion and it's use of rye bread as a thickener for the soup. This recipe had lots of varying feedback on the Food Network--usually based on whether people liked the bread or not. Being me, and wanting the soup for the more specific purpose of dipping, I used Giada's recipe as a base and made several adaptions.
  • I added 3 smallish cloves of garlic (I needs me my garlic in soup) ;-)
  • To make the soup a bit thicker, I reduced the chicken stock to 4 cups from 6
  • For more tomato flavor, I added 1 box of Pomi tomatoes plus another 1/2 box I had in the freezer & I added 2 Tbsp of tomato paste.
  • Giada does not have the soup pureed in the recipe but for dipping purposes, I pulled out my immersion blender and went for it.
  • I skipped the topping of the mascarpone cheese and sour cream to save my self-imposed dairy allowances for the grilled cheese sandwich and not mess up my dunking.
For the sandwich, I kept the soup's flavors by using some of the marbled rye pan bread I got for the soup (not a lot of choice in rye bread here but this was a good bread), adding a thin layer of pancetta, a little basil and then added smoked gouda and a little smoked mozzarella.

The soup and sandwich combo made a delicious meal--ultimate comfort food.

The recipe for the soup can be found at the Food Network
here. (My changes are all in red above)

Tomato Soup with Pancetta
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
(Makes 6 Servings)

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 ounces pancetta, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 (3/4-inch-thick) slices rustic rye bread (each about 5 3/4 by 3 3/4 inches), cubed
6 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juices
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup sour cream

Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the bread and toss to coat with the pan drippings. Saute until the bread is crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the broth, tomatoes, basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 10 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper.

Stir the mascarpone and sour cream in a small bowl to blend. Ladle the soup into bowls. Spoon a dollop of the mascarpone mixture atop the soup and serve.

Notes/Results: The soup was thick, rich and tasty with layers of flavor from the rye and the pancetta and paired with the sandwich well. I think, based on appearance, I would likely puree the soup as a rule in this one--it looked better and I enjoyed the texture more than with the chunks of disintegrating bread--but I am sure some of that has to do with the type and texture of the bread you are using. Sure bread in soup and bread on sandwich means a lot of starch and bread in this meal, but it adds to the flavor and the "dunk factor" with its texture. This soup is easy to make and I would make it again with my changes.

You can check out what the other IHCC peeps chose as their Potluck dishes by going to the post here and checking out the links.

Let's head to the Souper Sundays kitchen, where we have some fabulous dishes waiting, some new friends to meet, and old friends to catch up with.

Speaking of old friends, I am honored to have one making her first appearance at Souper Sundays this week--Ruth from Once Upon A Feast and founder of Presto Pasta Nights--one of my favorite weekly blog events. The cold weather is inspiring Ruth to make comfort food like... "like some hearty soup. My dad's favorite was beef & barley soup, but mine were her split pea or lentil soups with lots of short ribs. And then I found this recipe for Mushroom, Beef, Barley AND Lentil Soup.... need I say more?" Welcome Ruth!

And we have 5 other soup loving friends new to Souper Sundays here this week!

First up is # Héni from Simplicity's Table by the Sea, joining us from her kitchen by the Mediterranean Sea with a sunny Chourba Aâdess Rouge. Héni says, "Today, I am presenting one of my all time favourite winter soups that not only is healthy, low calorie but vegan also! Red lentils, the ones I have used in this soup are the most common type of red lentil is the Red Chief. It's a lovely orange in its dried form, but it turns golden when cooked. These lentils cook faster than others. They're best in purées or soups. Red lentils are mostly used in Indian, Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine."

Next, joining us from chilly New York City is Maria of Kali Orexi, (Greek for good appetite) who made classic Italian Wedding Soup. She says, "It was a balmy 6 degrees outside when we woke up this morning. The day’s high temp registered at 22 degrees. It’s freezing here in New York to say the least. And when it’s freezing we cook and eat soup … and lots of it. I had some ground beef out defrosting so I clicked on over to and did a search for soups. The first to catch my eye was an Italian Meatball Soup referred to in Italian as Minestra Maritata. Little meatballs, greens, small pasta shapes … "

And we have Champa from Versatile Vegetarian Kitchen who shares a healthy Vegan Tomato Soup. Champa says, "My younger one loves soup. Give some soup with bread or as is, she is a happy person. But, there is a catch to it. It has to have tomatoes in it. I have made pumpkin soup, butternut squash soup which, she will taste once and leave it. But serve her this tomato soup or Roasted red bellpepper soup, she is a happy girl. I made this especially for her and is the reason for not using any herbs."

Another new face and tomato lover is Claire from Chez Cayenne blogging from Houston Texas and with Creamy Tomato Basil Soup. Claire says, "This is a recipe that I've been making variation on for years. It's one of the richest tomato soups out there, thanks to the balsamic vinegar. To neutralize the acid in the vinegar, you add some baking soda, which makes the soup foam up briefly like a science experiment, so it's a fun soup to make, too"

Our final new face is Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook, joining us from New York with unique Shiruko --Japanese Mochi and Azuki Bean Dessert Soup. Susan says, "The (mochi) texture was crispy, crunchy, and light, not unlike puffed rice. I finished each bowl with the lightest rub of dried green mugwort from my fingertips. Mugwort is a distinctively hued herb not unlike green matcha tea, that is used to blend into soft mochi and noodles for novel color and subtle aroma and flavor. A member of the artemesia family, mugwort has many culinary and medicinal uses throughout Europe and the Far East, and has been ascribed with magical properties. While I cannot vouch for its fanciful characteristics, I do believe that a steaming bowl of shiruko can comfort the soul and lift the spirits. If that isn't magic, I don't know what is."

Welcome to Souper Sundays to all of you and I hope to have you back soon! ;-)

My buddy girlichef continues her quest for the best tortilla soup with this beautiful bowl of Good Neighbor Tortilla Soup from "The Good Neighbor Cookbook." girlichef says, "I think what really sets this version apart is the extent to which the flavors are built and developed. Bone-in chicken breasts poached in chicken stock for a fortified, double-strength chicken punch. Charred veggies lend smoky, earthy undertones. ... There's just so much flavor...and goodies...packed into each spoonful that it's hard to dismiss. Yes, there are chiles in it, but they are mild pasillas. They add the depth without the fire. Join me in a warm bowl of Tortilla Soup?"

Debbi of Debbi Does Dinner... Healthy & Low Calorie is back this week with a Green Chili Chicken & Lime Soup and says, "I've made this soup a number of times and each time it seems to get better and better. I often cook a bunch of chicken and have bags of portioned cooked, shredded chicken in the freezer. I cooked the rice early in the day so when it came time for dinner, this was able to be thrown together very quickly. Very healthy and incredibly tasty!!"

Tigerfish from Teczcape - An Escape to Food made a simple Clear Daikon Soup and says, "About simplification of already-simple dishes, I also attempted to make a clear daikon soup one day, without the chicken. Some green onions and Japanese Dried Ebi (Shrimps), that was it. With a few ingredients, this is not a soup big and bold on the flavors. But if you wish for something light, it may just be it."

Corina from Searching for Spice has a restorative Poached Salmon in Noodle Soup. She says, "My husband has been feeling unwell with a nasty cold and I keep feeling like a sore throat is coming on so my aim tonight was to make something soothing that would make us both feel better. With lots of garlic, ginger and chilli as well as super-healthy salmon, this dish was just what we both needed. ... It’s delicious, filling and healthy. What more could you want on a cold winter’s night?"

Lindsey from Enjoying Healthy Foods has a Paleo Chili with Cauliflower (No Beans) about which she says. "Like I said yesterday, hubby was out of town this past weekend and out the door was my diet. I ate grains and I had dairy and my elbows broke out and my body ached and I got sick. It is hard cutting out such BIG ingredients. I am still learning and I am still making mistakes. READ SET GO --- Another Chili recipe with 3/4 vegetables 1/4 meat!!!! Yes - I have made another chili --- NO ALMOND BUTTER this time!!! :)"

Julie from Little Bit of Everything made a healthy Tomato Chickpea Soup. She says, "It's a delicious version of tomato soup. The rosemary adds a nice earthy fragrance to the tomatoes and the chickpeas give it some substance. I brought my rosemary plant in for the winter and so far it's doing pretty well. I've found the fastest way to chop rosemary is to snip it with kitchen shears, much quicker than trying to chop with a knife. I almost always have some homemade chicken stock in the freezer, so I used it in place of the veggie stock."

My pal Joanne from Eats Well With Others has two dishes to share this week, chili and a salad. For her Pork and Black-Eyed Pea Chili she says, "Make this chili. This chili, which is smoky spicy stick-to-your-ribs-but-not-to-your-thighs delicious. It will win you brownie points. And chocolate points. And take-you-out-to-a-Michelin-starred-dinner on V day points. Yes, I know. I love you too."

About her Roasted Pumpkin, Wild Rice and White Bean Salad with a Ginger Sunflower Seed Dressing Joanne says, "I first encountered this salad on 101 Cookbooks but then doctored it up to suit my needs. I added white beans, because they are beautiful. I added ginger because the dressing tasted a little...well...boring without it. And I doubled it so that I could at least pretend that I was bringing it to share with other people. Sometimes, I can be selfish in such an altruistic kind of way."

Denise from Oh Taste N See is here with Boraani Esfenaaj – Iranian Spinach and Yogurt Salad and says, "Boraani Esfenaaj is the Iranian version of the Indian raita. Most often served with meat and rice dishes as a a side, it is a cool and refreshing salad of spinach and yogurt. Boraani means salad in Iranian and Esfenaaj means spinach. It is a very simple preparation where you saute the spinach, cool it and mix it with yogurt."

We have one hearty sandwich from Roz at la bella vita, this Cobb Salad in a Wrap. Roz says, "There aren't many people who don't like a loaded, classic Cobb Salad. Today I prepared a lower- calorie version of the Cobb salad in the form of a turkey wrap! It was a perfect low-cal substitute and thoroughly flavorful and filling. My husband looked at it and said, "I find it hard to believe that this wrap is low-cal!" Well, it is! This wrap is going to make some encore appearances in my lunch boxes, that's for sure!"

Another fantastic turnout this week. Thanks to everyone who joined in and another big welcome to our new friends. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on my side bar for the guidelines and details.

Have a happy, healthy week!