Sopa de Albondigas


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This was inspired by by sister from another mister’s mother… yes, you heard me right. My best friend’s mother, Josie, used to have a pot of soup or beans or something on the stove all the time… which was made living next door quite delightful! I recently discovered a genuine Mexican market up the street from me (which I’ve missed since moving to Nashville from Los Angeles) and I went a little crazy shopping. Seriously – support local vendors any time you can. I mean, FIVE limes for $1.00 and they’re .85 each at Kroger! With the exception of the seasonings (which I already had) I got every ingredient listed below at my new favorite market. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

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Savory Galettes


Spinach and Smoked Salmon Galette

Zucchini, Prosciutto and Basil Pesto Galette

The beauty of the galette is that it can come in any shape, size and flavor. It’s simply a free-form rustic tart and can be either sweet or savory, or both. My favorite, not pictured here because my friends ate it before I could snap a photo, is fresh fig and goat cheese drizzled with dark honey.

These galettes are made with a “cheater” crust – store bought rolled up in a box. But it worked in a pinch. But use whatever your favorite pie crust recipe is and I’m sure they’ll be delicious and even more rustic looking. Or cheat as I did… whatever works best for you.

On a side note: I just won an ebay auction scoring a 1967 edition of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. That deserves a blog entry all its own.. but I looked up galettes according to Julia and she made them as small individual appetizer tarts! About 2″ in diameter and often a chunk of (French) cheese served as the base, topped with ham, or an egg or both. Then wrapping the crust around and baking – things of perfection, I’m sure.

So there’s a few extra ideas for you. Listed below are the recipes for the two galettes pictured above. If you try your own version please come back and post it on this blog so we can all benefit from your culinary genius!

Each galette serves 3-6 people depending on whether you are serving it as an entree, a side or an appetizer. TIP:  You’ll notice that both galettes call for homemade ricotta. Please, please, please do me a favor and don’t buy that pasty store-bought stuff. Click on the link provided and you’ll see just how very easy it is to make your own. And once you do – you’ll never eat store-bought again – I promise! Try making the ricotta a day or two before and it won’t feel like such a big job all in one day.  One batch of ricotta should be enough to make roughly three galettes.

Ingredients
Galette #1
1 roll of store-bought pie crust
1 cup homemade ricotta
1 large egg
1 half small sweet onion – finely diced
1.5 cup baby spinach leaves (washed w/stems removed)
3/4 cup smoked sockeye salmon (or whatever your favorite smoked salmon is)
1/4 pine nuts
pinch of fine sea salt
pinch of ground pepper
egg whites for brushing on crust

Galette #2
1 roll of store-bought pie crust
1 cup homemade ricotta
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese – divided
1 large egg
1 tsp of garlic paste or very finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon of pesto
1/2 cup of red bell pepper – julienne
1/2 zucchini slices (roughly 8-10 dials)
1 sheet of prosciutto – sliced into strips lengthwise
pinch of fine sea salt
pinch of ground pepper
egg whites for brushing on crust

Preparation
Galette #1
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or spray with non-stick spray. Parchment paper is best because it will help to transfer the galette to a plate later.

Roll out a pie crust onto your work board and use your rolling pin to stretch and smooth it out. This should give you an extra inch of pie crust. Place the crust onto the cookie tin.

In either a stand mixer or using a hand mixer, blend together the ricotta, the egg and diced onion.  Add the salt and pepper. Don’t over-beat… it should look like cottage cheese when you’re done.

Place 1/2 of your spinach leaves in a single layer, forming  circle in the center of your pie crust. You should leave at least 2″ of crust edge showing.  Spoon your blended ricotta and egg mixture on top of the spinach leaves. Spread around with a spatula making an even layer, not exceeding the spinach leaves (as in, still leave 2″ of pie crust available).  Now put another single layer of your remaining spinach leaves on top of the mixture. Then your final layer is the Smoked salmon and pine nuts. Peel salmon into small thin strips and scatter evenly on top of the spinach leaves. Scatter pine nuts across the top.

Gently fold the 2″ crust up and over the layered smoked salmon. It will not cover the whole thing and will leave roughly a 3-4″ whole in the center uncovered (see photo above).  The finished shape will be rustic and rarely the same. Sometimes they’re very round, sometimes more triangle or square. It doesn’t matter… I think the more non-uniform the better.

Brush the outside of the pastry with the egg whites. You can also use melted butter if you prefer.

Galette #2
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or spray with non-stick spray. Parchment paper is best because it will help to transfer the galette to a plate later.

Roll out a pie crust onto your work board and use your rolling pin to stretch and smooth it out. This should give you an extra inch of pie crust. Place the crust onto the cookie tin.

In either a stand mixer or using a hand mixer, blend together the ricotta, the egg, garlic, pesto and 1/2 of your Parmesan cheese. Add the salt and pepper. Don’t over-beat… it should look like cottage cheese when you’re done.

Spoon your blended ricotta, pesto and egg mixture forming a circle in the center of your pie crust. You should leave at least 2″ of crust edge showing. Spread around with a spatula making an even layer. Now put a single layer of of the prosciutto strips on top of the mixture. Then scatter the red bell pepper strips as the next layer. You can be neat or haphazard it’s up to you. Then layer your thin zucchini slices, starting from the outside and working your way to the middle in a circular pattern. Sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmesan cheese.

Gently fold the 2″ crust up and over the layered zucchini. As mentioned before, it will not cover the whole thing and will leave roughly a 3-4″ whole in the center uncovered (see photo above). It’s okay of the hole is larger, as long as there’s a good lip of crust to keep in the ingredients.

Brush the outside of the pastry with the egg whites or use melted butter if you prefer.

Ready to Cook?
Place galette in a 375 degree preheated oven, on the middle rack for 25 minutes or until your pie crust is golden brown. On galette #1 the pine nuts should be lightly toasted. If they blacken, your oven rack it too high. On galette #2 the zucchini should be lightly browned and caramelized. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving, but serve warm.

The Perfect Bite
Cut the galette in triangles and eat just like a pizza. Take a nice big bite to be sure and get a taste of all the ingredients!

The Perfect Pairing
Serve by itself or with a lightly dressed side salad. If serving as brunch they go great with mimosas. To make mimosas simply mix 1-2-1 pulp-free orange juice with a sparkling wine such as Barefoot Pinot Grigio Champagne.

The Perfect Health
Did you know that smoked salmon is recommended By The American Heart Association? Smoked salmon is also high in Vitamin E, which is also a great antioxidant. Vitamin E can reduce or lower the risk of heart disease and has also been shown to play a protective role against cancer as well. Read more HERE.

Garden Vegetable Pasta Bake


This is one of my favorite go-to meals, especially if unexpected company stops by… which happens frequently at my house. If your pantry is regularly stocked with an assortment of dried pastas and a few fresh garden vegetables (or even better – you have a vegetable garden in your yard!) you can whip this up on the spot… an hour’s time max!

Yields: 4-6 main course servings / 8-10 side dish servings

Ingredients
1 lb Fusilli or Rotini noodles (uncooked – I use Barilla Plus)
1/2 cup Vegan Parmesan
1 medium zucchini squash
1 medium yellow squash
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 cup asparagus tips
1 small sweet onion
1 medium red tomato (seeded – rind only)
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
1 pinch each of what I call The Italian Big 5 (dried): thyme, basil, sage, oregano, rosemary
1.5 tablespoon kosher salt (divided)
1 teaspoon pepper as needed
2-3 tablespoons cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine (you can you veggie stock if you prefer)
2 tablespoons vegan butter

Preparation
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

This is where your veggie chopping skills come in. I’m going to list how I chop my vegetables for this dish, but change it up to your own preference!
Zucchini – trim ends and then chop whole zucchini into three 1.5″-2″ rounds. Then take each round and quarter length-wise.
Yellow Squash – slice into 1/8″ dials. If the squash is fairly fat at the end (more than 1.5″) cut dials in half. The goal is bite-size.
Red & Green Bell Peppers – I cut them julienne. Which is a fancy word for skinny strips. Simply trim top and bottom off pepper and discard. Core and remove seeds and spines. Then slices in 1/4″ slivers about 1.5″ long.
Asparagus – I use just the tips because often the center can be a little woody if not cooked long enough. I cut the tips off about 2″ in. Then I reserve the remainder of the stalk for making soups or purees.
Sweet Onion – peel and dice finely… this should be for flavor and not something you want bite-size.
Garlic – same as the onion above.
Tomato – Slice in half and core out seeds and spines. We just want the fleshy part. Cut into 1″ chunks.

Ready To Cook?
Put a large pot of water on medium heat. Drizzle olive oil and add a tablespoon of salt to the water. I use a good amount of salt when cooking pasta… I’ve heard your water should taste like the ocean when you’re done. Infusing your pasta water with salt is better than adding salt to your meal later.

Once your water comes to a boil add your pasta and continue cooking until it’s just shy of al dente.  Remember, it’s going to cook a little more in the oven so we don’t want to overdo it. I prefer to use the fasilli or rotini noodles because the corkscrew shape holds the seasonings best… but feel free to use whatever your favorite pasta is – I’ve used to bowtie with this as well, which makes for a festive looking dish.

Using as cast iron skillet (or any nonstick), pour in 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. While bringing it to a medium heat toss in The Italian Big 5 (dried thyme, basil, sage, oregano, rosemary). Once your oil is ready (it sizzles with a drop of water), gently add in your onion and garlic first. Stir well so that the dried herbs are worked through the oil, onions and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes then slowly add the veggies in this order (based on cooking time): Peppers, asparagus, zucchini, squash. Reserve the tomato, which won’t be added until ready to bake. Pour the 1/4 cup of white wine over veggies and continue sauteing for 5-6 minutes or until the zucchini has become tender and can easily be stabbed with a fork.

Drain pasta and transfer to a large baking dish (a lasagna dish works best). Add diced tomatoes. Then pour all the contents from your skillet over the pasta including olive oil/wine reduction that’s happened in the pan while sauteing. This is going to be the sauce. TIP: If your pan has become too dry while sauteing, you may have overcooked your veggies. Just add more olive oil and a splash of white wine (or veggie stock) and de-glaze the bottom of your pan. Add that to your pasta-veggie mix.

Immediately add 2 tablespoons of Vegan margarine so it can melt. Add half of your Vegan Parmesan cheese and mix thoroughly until everything is coated and you can see that the herbs are distributed evenly.

Taste your dish to see if additional salt and pepper is needed. TIP: Don’t assume it needs salt – salted pasta may have added plenty. Always taste your food before seasoning!

Sprinkle top with remaining Parmesan and bake uncovered on middle rack for 20 minutes (or until cheese starts to brown at edges).

TIP: If making extra to freeze for later, do not bake the portion you want freeze. Freeze after it’s cooled. Should last in freezer up to a month.

The Perfect Bite
This is one of my favorite kind of dishes to get a perfect bite from. I love stacking my fork with a twirly little noodle, a juicy piece of sausage, a buttery bite of zucchini and sweet sliver of red pepper. Oh, my mouth is watering just thinking about it! I love the nutty Parmesan and lightness of this invisible sauce.

The Perfect Pairing
This is a great summer dish so I prefer to pair it with a chilled glass of wine. Now, I’ve long since been a rosé snob. Pink wine? Really? My mind immediately goes to that giant box of Almaden Pink Blush Chablis that sits warm on the edge of my mom’s kitchen counter. Sorry Mom, but really?

However, rosé has come a long way… and I’m starting to warm up to them… well, at least when they’re chilled (again Mom, really?). Try pairing this dish with this French Rosé Note Bleue Cotôs De Provence Rosé 2009 – it’s sweet and earthy. A perfect compliment to the buttery pasta and veggies and peppery sausage. Served chilled, about 47 degrees.

The Perfect Health
Using Barilla Plus, reduces carbs and adds protein to any meal.  It’s made from legumes such as Chickpeas and Lentils as well as Egg Whites, Spelt, Barley, Flaxseed, Oat Fiber, and Oats.  Be sure check the box for cooking instructions – Barilla Plus can take longer to boil. Unlike many wheat or whole grain pastas that taste a little, well, cardboardy. This one is delicious! And I’ve found it holds up better in soups (as in, doesn’t swell and get mushy).  Read more here about its nutritional value.

Zucchini Flutes Piped with Basil-Ricotta Mousse


This delicious side dish has morphed over the last few times I’ve made it… trial and error play a big part in creating dishes…. at least, when I’m creating dishes. But I believe this one has finally become what just might be something close to perfection. Well close… anyway.

One of the beautiful things about zucchini is the range of sizes they come in… the ones I chose for this recipe were roughly 4-5 inches in length… with the intention of using them as a compliment to an entrée. But, as you will see *later in the recipe… with a few modifications, they can be used as a main dish. Just go to your local Farmer’s Market and grab a few of the big daddies… they can grow to be a full foot long and 2-3 inches in diameter.

Ingredients
(this recipe serves 4 as a **side dish)
2 medium Zucchini
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves – torn
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 1/2 cup ricotta (use my ricotta recipe for the freshest taste!)
4 tablespoons of shredded Parmesan cheese (divided)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preparations
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Zucchini:
Cut stem tips of zucchinis off and discard. Slice lengthwise into two pieces. Take a teaspoon and hollow out each half… scraping away seeds and core until smooth. Be sure to leave about 1/4 inch of flesh or the flute will be too weak. Set on baking tray.

Mousse:
Put the ricotta, basil, garlic, and half of the shredded Parmesan cheese into a food processor and blend until creamy. If too thick… add just a dab of olive oil. But not too much as you need the mousse to stand firm in the zucchini flutes. Once you reach the desired consistency – scoop the mousse out of processor into a zip lock baggie or pastry bag. If using a baggie, snip off about 1/4″ of the corner and squeeze baggie to pipe out mousse into the hollowed section of the zucchini. Stop short of the end by about 1/2″, as the ricotta will expand when baking. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan cheese along the top of flutes.

Ready To Cook?
Put tray of mousse-filled flutes on middle rack of oven, baking for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. Remove when zucchini is tender to a fork and the cheese has browned slightly. Once flutes are removed from the oven, sprinkle a few ricotta crumbles across the top and lightly drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately.

*If you would like to make a large Zucchini Flute your main dish… just add crumbles of cooked sweet Italian Turkey Sausage (for a healthier option than pork) into your mousse puree. Or keep it vegetarian and add your leftover zucchini scrapings to the puree.

**Zucchini Flutes are shown here with an entrée of Bucatoni noodles, marinara and sweet Italian turkey sausage.


The Perfect Bite
These flutes are so tasty on their own, just slice off a bite and enjoy. Be sure to have some extra fresh basil leaves to tear and add to your dish. If serving with pasta and sausage as I did hear… mix it up and stack your fork with it all!

The Perfect Pairing
One of my new favorite (and inexpensive) reds is the Cycles Gladiator Syrah. It’s earthy and bold and has just the kind of aromas that bring out the best in Italian foods.

Did You Know?
One cup of zucchini has about 35 calories and it contains about 340 milligrams of potassium. Zucchini is a good source of fiber with 4 grams per cup. Be sure to include the peel to get all the fiber.