Ribolitta

This hearty Tuscan soup is kin to minestrone but adds a layer of texture and flavor with its topping of bread and parmesan. There are many ways to add the bread to this soup, including layering it with vegetables, but I like the buttery crunch of toasted bread and cheese browned in the oven. You can use a variety of vegetables, a particularly useful thing when your garden harvest is bountiful.

Ribolitta

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided.
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 cups canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15 oz. diced tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4  cups water
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 bunch kale or chard, washed, stems removed, and chopped
  • 4 thick slices sourdough bread, toasted
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  1. Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in large soup pot, add onion, carrot, celery and garlic; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
  2. Heat oven to 400 degrees.Add beans to the pot along with tomatoes, rosemary, and thyme. Bring back to simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove rosemary and thyme stems and stir in greens. Taste and adjust seasoning. Lay bread slices on top of the stew so they cover the top. Drizzle with the remaining 3 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with Parmesan.
  4. Put the pot in the oven and bake until bread, onions and cheese are browned and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes.  Divide the soup and bread among 4 bowls and serve.

 

 

Stuffed 8 Ball Zucchini

Last Saturday I found these little squash at the Farmers Market in Sugar Land.  They are a hybrid squash, named 8 Ball Squash, that can be used much like Zucchini.  They are perfect for stuffing.

The stuffing I used is a variation of a recipe I found online, but any number of ingredients can be used.  I will try adding some fresh herbs and pine nuts the next time I make these. You could also try different cheeses or even add cooked ground meat.  I have often stuffed long zucchini.  My family calls those Zucchini Boats.  These look a bit like Zucchini Muffins!  I have planted a squash in my garden called Cupcake Squash and I can’t wait to see what that squash looks like!

Stuffed 8 Ball Squash

3-4   8 Ball Zucchini

4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 tomato, peeled and chopped

1 small onion, chopped

3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (I use Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset)

Salt

Ground black pepper

1 cup water, or less.  See directions.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Slice the tops off each zucchini. Set aside and reserve for later. Hollow out with spoon, chop,  and reserve the pulp.

Add bacon pieces to skillet and cook until bacon is brown.  Add the reserved chopped zucchini pulp, tomato, Italian seasoning, and onion and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until most of the liquid has cooked down. Remove pan from heat, add bread crumbs and 2/3 of the cheese reserving some for topping. Stir well to combine all ingredients. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as desired. Stuff each hollowed zucchini with mixture. Place in a shallow baking dish or pan and add chicken stock to a depth of about 1/4 inch. Place the pan in oven and cook for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and top each zucchini with extra cheese. Place the reserved zucchini tops in the pan, return to oven and cook for 20 more minutes or until the zucchini is tender. Lift out stuffed squash to serving dish and add tops.

Kale, Beet, and Apple Salad with Curry Vinaigrette

kalebeetapplesaladAfter seeing a beautiful salad recipe posted by my friend Debra this week, I adapted ingredients we had to make one that looks much like hers and used the same delicious vinaigrette with a bit of extra curry. The result is colorful and tasty –  a work of art  with layers of flavor!  Since we have an abundant crop of kale in our garden, we will have this often in our winter menus. This salad rates very high on the nutrition scale as well. I used pickled beets but you can add roasted or steamed fresh beets instead.

Kale, Beet, and Apple Salad

4 cups ruffled kale, shredded.

2 cups coarsely chopped peeled apples

2 cups pickled beet pieces

Curry Vinaigrette, recipe below.

Wash and pat the kale leaves dry before stripping from center stems.  Roll leaves and slice crosswise to shred.  Add chopped kale to a large bowl.  Add apples.  Drain beets and add, tossing with Curry Vinaigrette at least 4 hours before serving. Store covered in refrigerator.  Toss gently when ready to serve.

Curry Vinaigrette

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

2 Tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon (or more to taste) hot curry powder.  Use mild if your family prefers.

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 Tablespoon chopped crystallized ginger

Whisk all ingredients together before pouring over salad.

Wilted Garden Greens

wilted-greens

I remember my mother, Opal Teal, making wilted lettuce with iceberg lettuce cooked long enough to “wilt” in bacon grease and sprinkled with vinegar!  I thought it sounded awful and did not share her love for the dish!  All these years later, I think it might have been tastier than it looked!  We love using a few leaves of different greens to make this dish. Our winter garden contains a few thriving plants of Chard, Mustard, Kale, Bok Choy and Cabbage. A mixture of any of those can be delicious, but I usually limit my choices to include only 2 or 3.  The greens in the photo are Mustard and Bok Choy. Balsamic vinegar splashed on before serving makes this a dish Mother would have loved herself!

Wilted Garden Greens

4-5 large leaves of Mustard Greens

4-5 large leaves of Bok Choy

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, minced

salt and pepper to taste

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar, or to taste

Wash and pat the greens dry. Strip the center stem from each leaf. Stack several leaves and roll them up before slicing thinly with a sharp knife.

Heat olive oil in iron skillet.  Add garlic and stir for 1 minute.  Then add shredded greens, tossing with tongs until they begin to wilt.  Season with salt and pepper and add balsamic vinegar before serving.

Tarragon Peas and Mushrooms

tarragon-peas-and-mushrooms

Since tarragon does not thrive in our part of Texas, we grow Mexican Mint Marigold in the herb bed. I use it in any recipe which calls for tarragon, so for this dish I used the pretty mint marigold flowers for garnish.  I always keep Penzey’s dried French Tarragon in the pantry for times when the herb garden is wintering.  This combination of mushrooms, butter, and chopped fresh herb would be a great addition to green beans, too!

Tarragon Peas and Mushrooms

16 ounce package frozen green peas

1 cup fresh baby bella mushrooms, sliced

2 T butter

1 T chopped fresh tarragon or Mexican Mint Marigold plus a few leaves for garnish

herb flowers left whole for garnish

Melt butter to pan and add sliced mushrooms. Saute, stirring occaionally until mushrooms are tender.  Add frozen peas and cook 3-4 minutes, until heated through but not mushy.

Put into serving dish with extra herb leaves and flowers for garnish.

 

Kale with Cherries and Apple

kale

Even though our garden beds are newly planted, we have lovely winter greens that have begun to thrive in recent cooler weather.  Kale is a favorite, so we planted both red and green ruffled kale as well as Cavallo Negra, or Tuscan Kale.  For a side with baked chicken this week, I sauteed kale leaves, chopped apple, and dried tart cherries. Delicious! For this skillet, I only cut 3 large kale leaves!

Kale with Cherries and Apple

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Kale leaves, stems stripped, and chopped

1 Honey Crisp apple, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup dried tart cherries

salt and pepper

balsamic vinegar

Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in iron skillet.  Add kale tossed with apples, and cherries, and saute until kale is wilted.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

 

Caramelized Butternut Squash

butternut

Winter squashes are not only great decorations before cooking, but also delicious,nutritious, and add beautiful color to our fall table.  My favorite is Butternut Squash.  Roasting and caramelizing adds an amazing layer of flavor.  Try using any leftovers in soup or salad!

Caramelized Butternut Squash

2 medium butternut squash (6-8 cups cubed) (I have used Costco’s precut squash for super quick and easy preparation)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Note:  cinnamon or cayenne may be added for varying flavor

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut off and discard the ends of  butternut squash. Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler, cut in half lengthwise, and remove seeds with a spoon. Cut into  1-inch cubes and pour onto baking sheet lined with foil (for easier cleanup). Add melted butter, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Toss and spread in a single layer. Roast for 45 to 55 minutes, until the squash is tender and the glaze begins to caramelize on edges. Turn the squash a few times with a spatula.  Remove to serving dish.

 

Roasted Cinnamon Spice Cauliflower

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We have prepared beds for our fall garden, planted a few seeds, and as soon as winter vegetables are available at the garden center, we will add a row of cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and some broccoli plus winter greens.  Roasted cauliflower is a favorite in our house so we have tried a variety of recipes.  This was a favorite.

Roasted Cinnamon Spice Cauliflower

  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 3 pounds), cut into florets
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Coarse salt, for sprinkling
  1. Toss florets in melted butter, sprinkle with sugar, salt, pepper, paprika, and cinnamon, and spread on baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt.
  2. Roast at 450° F for 20-25 minutes or until golden, fork tender, and crispy brown on the edges.

Grilled Vegetable Omelet

Grilledveggieomelet

Cooking in my kitchen has been quite different in recent weeks for two reasons.  First, we had our house on the market, selling it days after listing. Second, I am on a medically prescribed restricted diet:  No tomatoes or sauces, no spices, no citrus, little or no fats, and only certain breads. We were eating more meals in restaurants, so the second  was complicated by the first. Since we needed to be out of the house often for showings, inspections, etc we still needed to eat out making menu choices more limited, and certainly more thoughtful.  This week, Joe brought in a take out meal which I had chosen resulting in leftovers – a  portion of grilled chicken breast and a larger portion of grilled vegetables. I decided to make this grilled vegetable omelet which was so good I will make it again, including grilling the veggies myself..OK, I admit, I added some chopped chicken too!

Grilled Vegetable Omelet    (serves 2).

4 large eggs.

1 Tablespoon water

1 cup or more chopped grilled vegetables (I used zucchini, broccoli, onions, and sweet red pepper).

Olive oil to coat the omelet pan (I used our vintage 8-inch curved side iron skillet)

Over moderate setting, heat a scant amount of oil in omelet pan or skillet

Add the eggs whipped with 1 Tablespoon water, and cook, lifting edges and tilting pan to allow raw egg to pour under the edge.  Continue until almost done, but still shiny, smoothing any liquid egg toward edge.  Add chopped vegetables and spread evenly over half the egg mixture.  Turn off heat.  Fold omelet in half, pressing slightly to seal edges. Egg will continue to cook.  Slide onto serving plate and garnish as desired.  I usually cut the halves and serve, but you can leave the omelet on the servng plate in order to serve yourself at table. We had this for breakfast, but it would be nice for a light lunch or supper as well.

 

Squash Verole

IMG_3111There are so many ways to enjoy summer squash!  I used my 8 inch iron skillet to make this delicious Mexican flavored crookneck squash, a real treat along with some fresh purple hull peas.  I found the recipe in an all time favorite cookbook, The Texas Experience, Friendship and Food Texas Style. I use the cookbook so often the back is coming off and the pages are loose, and I always smile when I see my friend’s handwriting inside the front cover:  “To my best friend with much love, Merry Christmas 1984  Sondra.

It has been almost 30 years since we lived near each other, but I still miss her, and every time we talk, we pick back up where we left off!  Thank you, Sondra.  For the book, and for the friendship!

Squash Verole

4-6 yellow squash, sliced into rounds

1 onion, choed

4 tablespoons oil of your choice (I used coconut)

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup chopped green chiles

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 cup cheddar cheese, grated.

Saute squash and onion in oil until tender.  Add milk, chilies, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes. Remove fro heat and add cheese. Serve hot.

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