Tag Archives: vegetarian

San Marzano Tomato Soup with Parmesan Tuiles & Crispy Basil

I’m so fascinated by other people’s genius and recipe-making creativity that I have lately found myself NOT making up recipes like I used to. There are just so many amazing chefs to look to for brilliance that there’s almost no need to make something up off the cuff. And yet somehow, while reading recipes and thinking about spring and the upcoming summer, I found myself planting tomato seeds and herb seeds. Inevitably this led to thinking about ways to use these anticipation-inducing foodstuffs and I thought of tomato soup. Yes. Another soup.

My big problem with bought tomato soup is that it so often tastes like thickened V-8 juice which I just can’t stand. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll slurp up some tomato soup with a grilled cheese in hand any day, but it’s just always lackluster and sort of a waste of calories. I love, adore, crave, and yearn for awesome tomatoes. My grandparents used to grow them at their place in Virginia…YUM. I just saw the first sprouts of my tomatoes (cherry and roma) and while I’m anxious to try making soup with them, for now I’m more than content with canned san marzano tomatoes. This soup is intensely tomato-flavored. There is no water or cream in this soup to mellow out the tomato so anyone who is ho-hum about tomatoes will probably find this too rich. Chad and Meredith fall into this category. I groaned and ate spoonful after spoonful while they ate a bit and pushed the bowls away, claiming it was “too tomato-y.”

I should have known.

You knowing food enthusiasts might notice that I’m not using DOP San Marzanos. I’m using the New Jersey grown tomatoes that are grown from the same seeds. I’ve had both and I’m happy to sacrifice authenticity for the 40% in savings. I use these tomatoes a lot and I’m not about to spend that much money on canned food. Sorry America.

1 14 oz. can of yummy tomatoes (Whole, crushed, or diced work equally well. Here I used crushed.)
1 shallot or onion, whole
1-3 cloves garlic, whole
1 C red wine (whaaaaat? I know)
3 Tbsp butter
pinch of salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
handful of grated parmesan
8 basil leaves
3 Tbsp olive oil

Dump the tomatoes in a medium saucepan and add the butter, onion, garlic, and wine. Bring this to a simmer and stir in salt and pepper. Let this simmer for at least 1 hour…while you prep everything else!

Go outside to your herb garden (because you just started one outside too, right?) and pluck 8-12 basil leaves. Wash em off and add them to a sauté pan with the olive oil. Let the basil leaves fry in the hot oil. Your kitchen should smell incredible by this point. You’re welcome.

Preheat the oven to 375. Grate a handful or so of parmesan cheese. I finished off the rest of my parmesan reggiano and made the rest of the tuiles with some Argentinean parmesan that I was really curious about in the grocery store. They were both good but the Argentinean parmesan was sort of Gruyère-y. Put little spoonfuls of cheese onto a silpat or similar mat (mine are Kitchenaid brand and Meagan got them for me for Christmas!). Place in the oven at 375 until you see that they are crispy and thoroughly melted. The time varies here.

When the basil leaves and parmesan crisps are done, transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate but don’t get rid of that basil-infused oil. Wait anxiously for the soup to keep simmering. Tap your foot. Wring your hands. Stick your head over the pot a zillion times to smell the yumminess. When the soup is done simmering, fish out the onion and garlic (or don’t if you can’t find them…like I couldn’t find the garlic-ha!) and use an immersion blender to purée the tomatoes. Use a regular blender or food processor if you don’t have an immersion blender.

Pour the soup in a bowl and top with a tuile and a basil leaf. Sprinkle on a few drops of the basil oil and chow down. You can also break the parmesan and basil over the tops–you can get away with eating more this way. The parmesan tuiles will just barely melt in the soup and the basil will be mellow and less intense than fresh basil. This is why I use the basil oil too. You get the light basil flavor from the fried basil and more light flavor from the oil.

It is the most flavorful tomato soup you can imagine and the wine and basil and onion flavors are subtle but really add something. Oh and the garlic is divine. Tomatoes and garlic are bffs after all. This soup would be perfect as a side to a pesto pasta or a thick steak. I must confess that it is very intense for a main course but for lunch with a pasta and some bread it would be awesome.

I, of course, ate a huge bowl and an extra tuile after…just because.

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Split Pea & Cabbage Soup

I don’t know about you, but where I live, it’s still cold out. I had ONE DAY this week to wear a short-sleeved dress and thin tights and now I’m back to jackets and sweaters and grey skies. I was also in a crabby mood today because, like many Hoosiers, I’m wholeheartedly against daylight savings time (it’s just stupid and it’s another reason I want to move to Hawaii with Chad). Naturally when I got home I wanted soup, hot, yummy, comforting soup. So that’s just what I made.

I’ve been wanting to make my Aunt Karen’s split pea soup for a while now. She made it once when I was up in Naperville for my cousin Sara’s birthday (we actually usually visited for her birthday since it fell on a school holiday) and I really liked it. Sara hated it though which kind of sucked since it was her birthday dinner. Aaaaaaaaanyway I asked my cousin Dan for the recipe and he quickly sent it over. I met a small problem though when I realized I 1. didn’t have an onion, barley, or lima beans and 2. needed to make this taste a little less like peas so that Chad would eat it with me. Then I realized that 1. I don’t like onions or barley that much and 2. I always picked the lima beans out of Karen’s soup. I had all these other vegetables that would taste great in place of those missing ingredients. In fact, I got a head of green cabbage at the grocery store for (get ready) twenty-seven cents. Hooray for the Irish! For real. I’m making cabbage and carrot salad soon too. Yum.

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 carrots, chopped
1/4 head of green cabbage, sliced
2 small or 1 large russet potatoes, chopped
1 C split peas
4-6 C vegetable or chicken stock*
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp parsley
1 tsp basil (dried today since there is NO good fresh basil at the grocery stores)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper**
parmesan rind (opt)
shredded jack or parmesan cheese for topping (opt)
chopped bacon for topping (opt)

*I used homemade chicken stock made with the bones and leftovers from a roast chicken. Then I wanted more broth and added a cup of white wine. Use whatever you have around or whatever you want to get rid of. You can also use water if you’re trying to limit sodium and fat.
**I used a bit less pepper than I would have because I knew I was going to add bacon to the soup after it was done and we had peppery bacon. You can always add more to taste.

Feel free to use a regular stock pot for this. I just prefer the dutch oven since it heats evenly and retains heat after the burners are off. First add the olive oil and garlic. Let this sauté until fragrant before adding the carrots and potatoes. Cook these over medium heat until you can see that they are beginning to be cooked through.

Dump in the chicken stock, peas, cabbage, and spices and stir. The liquid probably won’t cover the cabbage, but the cabbage will cook down. Cover the pot and cook at medium low for about an hour. Go play scrabble with your significant other or watch Man vs Wild or clean up all the red lentils you spilled on the floor when you were organizing your pantry.

After the hour of cooking, stir well and use this opportunity to throw in a parmesan cheese rind. Doing this with your rinds instead of throwing them away once you grated all you can keeps you from wasting precious flavor. The rind breaks down and with frequent stirring it will give up bits of cheese throughout the broth. I think I saw this first on thekitchn.com but I know Giada talks about it a lot too (when she’s not showing, in great detail, how to enunciate Italian words). Now I can’t go through parmesan fast enough in pursuit of the leftover rinds. Yum.

This soup is flavorful enough on its own, but with some shredded parmesan or jack cheese (people forget about jack cheese) it’s even better. I also cooked up some bacon (oven at 375 for 10 minutes) and tore it up over the soup in an effort to get Chad more on board with the whole “so there are peas in the soup?” routine.

French Lentil Soup with Tomato Broth

Making note of the request for “more soups!” on the facebook fan page, I dug out my jar of French green lentils (unused and only sort of smelling like the pickles it once held) and checked out the lentil soup recipe on seriouseats.com. Robin Bellinger has a great series on eating for less than $8 and this recipe costs far less. Provided you have spices and garlic in your kitchen, the other items should cost very little. And the finished product is very filling. Add bread or a salad or a piece of chicken and you have a complete meal. No joke, y’all. And it’s so healthy, you have a great excuse to eat some of that baklava ice cream in your freezer (you did make baklava…didn’t you?).

Of course, being me, I couldn’t leave well enough alone and made some changes to the original recipe (Hi, my name is Kristen and I’m a little bit of a rebel). I upped the spices and tomato paste to increase flavor/make it appetizing to my boyfriend. I also cooked up some crispy bacon for a topping. Don’t judge. We haven’t eaten bacon in DAYS and it just seemed appropriate. We missed bacon.

But my point is: here is another soup recipe with easy-to-find-ingredients that has almost all good-for-yo-body ingredients and tastes yummy. And you thought the only nutritious soup you could eat was that cabbage soup that made rounds on the interwebs a while back. Hah! I laugh at your cabbage soup diet (but mostly because I don’t like green peppers or diets). If you are trying to eat healthier, this is a soup that will fill you up, give you nutrients, energy, fiber and iron (attention all preggos!) and tastes good–all for the cost of a Big Mac.

Adapted from Robin Bellinger’s Eight Buck Lentil Soup on Serious Eats
1 C French green lentils (mine are whole)
1 Tbsp olive oil, butter, or bacon fat (if, ahem, you’ve really missed bacon)
2 medium carrots, diced
1 small or 1/2 a large shallot (or part of an onion-whatever you have)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp celery salt
grind of fresh pepper
about 4 cups water (or chicken or vegetable stock if you have it)
crispy bacon for topping (optional)

[THE NIGHT BEFORE] Soak the lentils in a bowl or saucepan overnight with just enough water to cover. They’ll be fine until lunchtime or dinnertime when you are ready to make the soup.

Rinse the lentils (ew look at that water) completely and set aside while you prep the other ingredients. Use a large saucepan for the soup. Throw the oil or bacon fat in the pan and add the carrots, shallot, and garlic. Let these cook over medium heat for a few minutes before adding the lentils and stirring well. Next add the tomato paste, spices, and water. Now put on the lid and step away with amazement while the stove does the work for you. Keep an eye on that pot while you do dishes, make homemade bread, or make deep-fried mushrooms for your boyfriend. Yeah. That’s happening right after I finish this post. Let the soup simmer for 20-odd minutes before removing lid to stir and then simmer for another 10 minutes. Add more water if you want a thinner consistency. Like I’ve said before, I’m a fan of thick, hearty soups/stews. Add more water if you think I’m crazy.

Mmm…

It has a definite vegetable-base taste to it, but the thyme and tomato flavors really come through and the carrots add a good, smooth texture that breaks up the heaviness of the lentils. If you opt for bacon (bacon!), just rough chop or tear up a slice or a slice and a half over a small bowl and leave it on top. Don’t let the bacon get soggy.

Orange Lentil Soup: The Fat-free Foodgasm

I love lentil soup. I love it with a passion. When I worked at a Turkish restaurant a while back, I fell HARD for a lentil soup with basil and red pepper. It was so flavorful and, amazingly, it was super healthy. I would eat it for breakfast when I showed up in the morning. I would eat it whenever I got hungry. I took leftover soup home in a big takeaway container. The big soup warmer smelled amazing and was like a magnet drawing me over. The soup was slightly watery in the morning and thick and hearty at night.  I begged and begged for the recipe but never got it. I did however, pick up a couple important ingredients. That was enough for a base idea and from there, I added carrots, eliminated a few other things, and just tried to wing it. And good Lord. It is so good. The lentils break down to form a creamy base with chunks of sweet carrots and intense red pepper and basil flavors.

1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp olive or vegetable oil
2 Tbsp red pepper paste
1 minced shallot or onion
2 finely diced carrots
1 3/4 C red split lentils
at least 6 C water
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried basil
2 large fresh basil leaves
bouillon to taste
1 Tbsp salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
sprinkle of fresh lemon juice (opt)

Preheat your oven to 300 and soak the lentils in a couple cups of water while you chop the veggies and assemble the other ingredients. Grab a big ole honkin’ Dutch oven. If you don’t have one, go to TJ Maxx and get one. Or I guess use a stock pot. But it’s best to use something oven-proof so friend a neighbor or call your mom. Oh and not registering for one when you get married is a bad decision (ahem, Meredith and Danny). OR you can go all cook-while-you’re-at-work-or-the-movies-or-shopping and do the WHOLE thing in a slow-cooker. Slow-cooker friendly!

But they’re adorable so I won’t give ’em a hard time.

Throw that teensy amount of olive oil in a pan over medium heat, followed by the garlic and the red pepper paste. About that red pepper paste…

This is an ingredient common to a lot of Middle Eastern cuisines. Like sour cherries, hazelnut spread, and halva (be still my heart), it’s an inherently Turkish ingredient that is found in the cuisines of the neighboring countries. And it has the power to transform a dish from ho-hum to incredibly flavorful. Look for red pepper paste at Turkish or other international markets. If you absolutely can’t find it or you just don’t feel like finding it, your soup will suffer, but you can replace with tomato paste and add a diced red pepper. But really. The red pepper paste rocks.

Back to the soup! When the garlic is sauteed and stirred in with the red pepper paste, add the chopped carrots and shallots (or onions). Then quickly add the lentils and all the water. Throw in the dried herbs and fresh basil. If you want, add some chicken bouillon paste or break up a cube into the soup. Bring this to a boil and then stir well. Cover with the lid and place the whole thing in the oven for 30 minutes. At this point you might find that the soup is too chunky. Feel free to add water as you see fit. I like chunky, hearty soups-almost purees-for the most part but you can add lots of water if you want it thinner.

Turn off the heat and stick the soup back in the oven for 30 minutes so the lentil get completely soft. When you open the lid after that last 30 minutes, the smell and the awesome will hit you in the fact like Mike Tyson. Eat a (cooled) spoonful and you will be hooked. And then you’ll remember that it’s fat free. And then you’ll want to hug me.

I’m in Bloomington. Come find me. =)