White Bean & Barley Soup

Hello all– I’m up in San Francisco visiting kids this week and Larry stayed home this time to work with a house project going on. (thanks Larry!)  So I made up a big pot of soup with some of his favorite ingredients — beans, barley and Swiss chard (the last sign of life in our vegetable garden).  It should keep him happily fed for a few meals!

3 tab. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5 cl*oves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 cups vegetable broth*
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 cup pearl barley
1 bunch of chard, stems discarded, chopped (about 3 cups)
15 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
garnish:  sour cream and/or grated parmesan (and a little green**)

Heat the oil in your soup pot and then throw in the chopped onion. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, add the garlic, salt & pepper and cook a minute more.

Pour in the broth and tomatoes.  Bring the mixture to a boil and then add in the barely.  Lower to a simmer and cook 30 minutes, until the barely is tender.

Add the chopped chard and rinsed beans and cook 4 or 4 minutes more to warm it all up.  Stir in the parmesan an serve with a dash of sour cream or a sprinkle of parmesan on top (or both!).

*I used chicken broth because that’s what I had in the cupboard.
**I have marjoram growing like weeds in my side yard, so dropped a piece on top.


Antipasto Pasta

Hi there– yesterday was Valentines Day– Hope someone gave you a hug and handed you a mug of tea.  We had a group of friends in Saturday for a Valentines dinner– Jeff brought a Valentine quiz and I can’t remember when I’ve laughed so much.  Sat over a fancy supper for the friends and talked late– but the truth is that most everyday dinners with my valentine, Larry, are simple like this one…

Around here we love a tableful of antipasto– savory little plates to launch into the meal.  But on weekday evenings, there’s not too many leisurely multi course dinners at our house!  So this dish rolls the antipasto and pasta all into one meatless plateful.  And it’s lovely that the whole things can be put together in about 20 minutes.

8 oz. pasta (your favorite!)*
1 smallish onion, chopped fine
3 tab. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz. crimini mushrooms, chopped
14 oz. can petit cut tomatoes with garlic & onions
14 oz. can small white beans
1/2 cup mixed brined olives
1/2 cup feta, in small cubes

Put the water on to boil for the pasta. Salt it liberally.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and drop in the chopped onion.  Stir and let it cook 3 or 4 minutes until it starts to brown.  Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook 1 minute more.

Then pour in the tomatoes (including the juices in the can). Rinse and drain the white beans and add them in too.  Simmer on low for 5 minutes or so until the pasta is cooked.

Drain the pasta and spread it on a pretty platter.  Mix the feta and olives into the sauce at the last minute and then pour it all over the pasta.  Eat it hot!  Delicious!

*my favorite is always angel hair– but any pasta will do…


Pasta e Fagioli

IMG_3793Hi friends– here’s a steamy chunky soup that I had for dinner last weekend and leftovers for lunch all week.  That’s a big pot of soup!  With a sturdy loaf of bread and a bright salad slathered with balsamic vinegar, you can pretend you’re eating in an Italian village (or just sitting in the teacher’s lunchroom at school).

1 cup macaroni*
1 pound milk Italian sausage
2 tab. olive oil
1 onion, cut fine
2 carrots, cut to small bits
3 cloves garlic
4 cups chicken broth
2 14oz. cans petit cut tomatoes with garlic
1 cup water
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 cup roasted red pepper, chopped
1 can cannellini beans (small while beans)
garnish: basil (or marjoram)** and parmesan

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in your soup pot, heat the olive oil.  Then crumble and cook the Italian sausage til it’s well browned.

Remove the cooked sausage from the pot and drop in the onions and carrots.  Cook 3 minutes, until they soften a bit and add in the garlic.

Next stir in the chicken broth, tomatoes, water and basil.  Cook at a simmer for 10 minutes.  Then add in the white beans, pasta and roasted pepper and cook just a couple minutes more to heat it all through.  Serve it up hot with a sprinkle of grated parmesan and some shredded basil or  marjoram.

*The recipe I worked from called for digitali pasta– but I used the smaller version, macaroni salad pasta because I had it in the cupboard.
**I used marjoram, because it grows like a week in the side yard.


White Chicken Chili with Garbanzos & Cannellini Beans

IMG_3617Hi there– Soup’s here!!  After weeks, of crazy hot weather this fall, it’s finally cooled down!   I wore sweaters to school every day this week.  And switched over to my cozy winter pajamas.  We haven’t touched the air conditioning.  And soup!  Glorious soup!

I made a ample pot of this stuff and took soup lunches to school with me all week.  And it was delish–  all those chewy beans along with the tender chicken and slightly spicy broth.  So glad to be back to wonderful warming soup days!

1 serrano chile
1 medium onion, cut to bits
2 tab. olive oil
4 cups chicken stock, divided
2 tab. flour
1 tsp. adobo sauce
1 chipotle chili, seeds removed, minced fine**
2 15 oz. cans cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tab. cumin
1 tsp. dried basil
1 roasted chicken, boned and cut to nice bites
2 11 oz. cans white corn kernels, drained & rinsed
1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained & rinsed
1 7 oz. can salsa verde*
3/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup half & half (or whole milk)
3 tab. cornstarch
1 lime, juiced
salt to taste
garnish: sour cream, avocado, corn kernels (saved from the recipe), cilantro

In a soup pot, heat the olive oil.  Then toss in the cut up onion and the Serrano chile, cut lengthwise and the seeds removed.  Cook 4 or 5 minutes until the onion starts to brown.
Remove the Serrano and discard (unless you like your soup way spicier than I do!)

Add 1/2 cup of the chicken stock, adobo sauce, minced chipotle chili and 1 can of the cannellini beans that have been drained and rinsed.  With a stick blender whirl it all into a thick paste.  Or remove the mixture to a blender and blend it all up together and return to the pot.

To that mixture, add the rest of the chicken stock, garlic and basil and simmer for 15 minutes.

Then put in the chicken, corn, the 2nd can of cannellini beans, garbanzo beans and salsa verde.  Simmer on low for 10 minutes more.

Jus before serving, shake together the half & half and the cornstarch in a container with a tight fitting lid until it is all blended.  Stir it into the simmering soup for a few minutes, until it thickens a bit.  Then add in the lime juice and cilantro.  Simmer just a minute more.

Serve it up hot and garnish with sour cream, avocado and a sprinkle of cilantro and reserved corn kernels.  I hope you like it as much as we did!

*I like the Hedrez salsa verde.
**You can more chipotle, if you love more heat.


White Bean Antipasto Salad

IMG_1998Hello there– It’s summer and if you want a fast, cool, savory summer meal, here it is.  Just a few ingredients and a bit a cooking and chopping and it’s on the table– I like to make it ahead and cool it in the fridge.  Serve it up with a chunk of sturdy bread to dredge up the dressing on the bottom of the plate and it’s dinner.

2 14oz. cans cannellini beans (small white beans)
2 Italian sausages, mild or hot (about 1/2 pound)
1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped fine
1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped fine
2 tab. basil or marjoram, chopped*
2/3 cup assorted olives
4 small tomatoes, cut in quarters

1/3 cup olive oil
3 tab. white balsamic vinegar**
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Rinse the beans in a sieve and shake dry.

Remove the sausage from it’s casing and crumble it into a pan.  Cook  4 or 5 minutes until it’s well browned.  (If you are not using a nonstick pan, add a few drops of olive oil)

To make the dressing, combine the olive oil, vinegar, garlic and salt & pepper in a small container with a tight fitting lid.  Shake it enthusiastically until it’s thoroughly blended.

Then combine the beans, sausage, red & green pepper, basil and olives.  Toss this with the dressing and spread it on a nice platter.  Top with the cut tomatoes.  That’s it!  So easy.


White Bean & Bacon Tomato Soup

DSC00443Hello all– There’s not usually bacon hanging around in our fridge.  But when the kids are coming home for a visit, I head straight for the market and get all the things they like to eat. Including bacon.  Lots of it.

So now they’ve come and gone for Christmas/New Years.  And there’s still a bit of bacon lingering in our kitchen.  What better to do with it, than a big pot of white bean & bacon tomato soup?  It’s one of those warm & cozy soups– sweet little beans, salty bacon and all that rich tomato holding it all together.  With a slab of brown bread and a crunchy salad, it’s dinner.

1/3 pound bacon (about 6 slices), cut to bits
2 onions, chopped fine
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tab. fresh thyme leaves
2 late bay leaves
1/2 tsp. salt
several grinds of fresh pepper
28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
14 oz. can petit cut tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
2 14 oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed in a strainer
garnish– thyme sprigs & grade parmesan romano

Cook the cut bacon in a soup pot until lightly browned.  Remove the bacon.  Pour out all but 3 tab. of the bacon fat from the pot.

Add the cut onions to the pot.  When they are lightly browned, add in the garlic, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper.  Cook a minute more.

Then add in the crushed tomatoes, petit cut tomatoes, chicken broth and cannellini beans. Simmer the soup for 15 minutes.

Serve it up hot topped with grated parmesan romano cheese and a sprig of thyme just to make it pretty.


Nectarine, Blueberry and Crispy Ham Salad

IMG_3802Hi all–  Last week we had a big eating weekend.  Out for Chinese, then out again for Lebanese food the next night.  Spaghetti with friends and a  big shower brunch.  Ugh.  So Sunday night Larry suggested, “How about salad dinners this week?”  Sounds good to me.  Quick and cool is always good in August.  Here’s Monday night’s dinner…

1 cup ham, cut to small pieces
2 tab. olive oil
4 nectarines, cut to polite little pieces
1 cup blueberries
1 can cannellini (small white) beans, drained & rinsed
1/2 head red leaf lettuce
2 cups baby arugula

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup tarragon vinegar
1 tsp. seedy brown mustard
1 tab. apricot preserves
1 tab. sugar
salt & fresh pepper to taste

Drop the ham bits into a hot pan with the olive oil and cook until they crisp around the edges.  Layer the lettuce, arugula, cannellini beans, nectarines, blueberries and then the ham on a large platter.

Shake together the dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight lid until it’s well blended.  Pour over the salad just before you set it on the table.

Light summer supper.  Hope you enjoy it!


Italian Lunch Salad

IMG_1836Hello all–  We have friends who have set out for 3 weeks in Italy with all their kids and a grand-baby in tow.  I’m trying, really, to not be too jealous as their photos along Venice’ canals slide down my facebook page.  I think they are having a grand time there together! I can imagine them sampling fried zucchini blossoms or saltimbocca or my favorite “Crema del Doge” gelato.  So for lunch, to summon up a little bit of Italy for us at home, I put together an Italian-ish salad—

4 slices turkey ham, cut to small bits
1/2 head leaf lettuce
1 14 oz. can cannellini beans
Mixed olives
1/4 cup chopped read bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped basil
peperoncini peppers
2 tab. grated parmesan
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tab. white balsamic vinegar
garlic salt & fresh pepper to taste

In a nonstick pan, grill up the bits of ham.  While that’s cooking layer the lettuce, cannellini beans, olives, pepper, basil, crispy ham, pepperonici and top with a sprinkle of parmesan.  Then in a container with a tight lid shake together the oil, vinegar and salt & pepper.  Drizzle it over the salad just before you set it on the table.

Serve it up with a substantial loaf of bread and some lovely gelato for dessert.
Buon Apetito!