Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

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Beautiful image of peppers by Csengele Horn-Barta from Unsplash.

Ree Drummond has a wonderful recipe for roasted pepper soup that I will make often – since it’s easy and so good. I did make a few changes, but stayed pretty true to Ree’s recipe.

Normally I always drain and rinse canned veggies, but because the peppers were in a glass jar, I tasted the red pepper jar liquid.  It wasn’t very salty and had lots of pepper flavor, so I tossed it in, too. Not sure if that breaks some kind of kitchen “law” – but it tasted great.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp chopped dry oregano, or 2 tsp fresh oregano, minced
1 good-sized russet potato, peeled and chopped into ½” cubes
3 jars (12 oz each) roasted red peppers, sliced – plus the jar liquid
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup half n half (Ree uses heavy cream)
1 tbsp cider vinegar (Ree uses red wine vinegar)
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat oil in a large pot. Add onions and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add potato, roasted peppers, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Mix well and let cook for 5 minutes.

Add white wine and let it cook down for 3-4 minutes. Then add the stock and pepper jar liquid. Cook on medium-low heat for 20 minutes, checking to see that the potatoes are nice and soft. Remove from heat, and buzz with an immersion blender until everything is fairly smooth. Add cider vinegar, butter and 1/2 and 1/2 and let heat for a minute or two. Check seasonings.

Serve with fresh grated parmesan sprinkled on top. So good – and even better the next day.

I also stirred in a tsp of butter at the end, so you could do that too.

For a vegan version – leave out the 1/2 and 1/2 and butter, or substitute vegan butter.

Southern Shrimp & Grits Casserole

shrimp-with-gritsThis recipe was in the latest Southern Living Magazine and is a real keeper. Of course I tweaked it a bit (lightened it up a little) but in general I followed the recipe pretty closely. It’s pretty rich but so delicious. In fact I went in and grabbed a little spoonful of it from the dish in the fridge and it was good – even cold from the fridge! Like I said – it’s a keeper.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 9 x 12 baking pan.

Ingredients for Grits

4 cups whole milk
1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
1/4 cup butter
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder (or one clove garlic, crushed)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Heat milk in a large saucepan until just starting to boil. Add grits, butter and seasonings and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 5-7 minutes stirring constantly, until grits are softened and mixture has thickened. Take off heat and add beaten egg and cheese, stirring in well. Pour mixture into prepared baking pan, smoothing as needed and then cover and bake 35-40 minutes. Cook longer if you want the edges browned a bit.

Ingredients for Shrimp Sauce

1 cup chopped bacon, or turkey bacon (add 3 tbsp olive oil if using turkey bacon)
1 onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh garlic
1/2 cup flour
1 lb. peeled, deveined shrimp
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/4 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp dried parsley (or 1 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley)
1 heaping teaspoon dried thyme, or 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup sliced green onions

In a large saucepan, saute bacon until crisp and remove. Pour out all but 3 Tbsp of bacon drippings or oil. Add onions and peppers and cook for 3-4 minutes stirring frequently. Have all the rest of your ingredients ready, because you will be stirring constantly from here on out.

Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds, then add flour and cook for 1 minute. Add shrimp and cook for 3 minutes. Add wine and cook for 2 minutes, then add broth and seasonings. Cook a couple minutes more until warmed through.

Spoon the shrimp mixture over the grits, then sprinkle with reserved bacon and green onions.  Serve warm.

Golden Chicken, Mushroom & Rice Soup

It was cold and snowy today – perfect for a good bowl of this golden, delicious soup. Based on recipe from Southern Living, my version is much quicker, uses basmati rice and is a bit spicier.  It’s rather closer to Mulligatawny Soup, so you can add a squeeze of fresh lemon when serving if you like.

Ingredients

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 (8-oz.) package sliced fresh mushrooms
2 tsp garlic, minced
7 cups chicken broth
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into 1″ pieces (or 3 cups rotisserie chicken cut into bite-sized pieces)
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground turmeric
1⁄2 tsp ground cumin
1⁄4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1⁄2 tsp Lawry’s Seasoning Salt
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup basmati rice (any rice would probably be fine.)
fresh lemon wedges (optional)

Directions

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat.

Add onion, celery, mushrooms and minced garlic. Cook for 4-5 minutes until vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally.

Add everything else and bring just to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes until chicken and rice are both cooked.  (Note: If using rotisserie chicken, just add it for the last 5 minutes of cooking.)  Check seasonings and if you wish, serve with a wedge of lemon.

To make a vegan version of this, replace the chicken and butter with a can or garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained and a bit more olive oil.  Swap out the chicken stock for veggie stock. 

Bok Choy, Eggplant and Peppers with Oyster Sauce

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Beautiful Bok Choy Photo by Jodie Morgan on Unsplash

We love baby bok choy and chinese eggplant.  When I saw them looking all fresh and delicious at the Asian market, I couldn’t resist.  I grabbed a beautiful red pepper, too and it made for a quick and easy supper.   The recipe is from foodandwine.com with a few tweaks of my own.

1 to 1 1/2 lbs. baby bok choy, washed and patted dry
2 small Chinese eggplants* (about 1 ½” x 10″) halved and cut into ½” half circles
1 red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, cut into 1″ squares
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 big tsp chopped garlic (or two cloves fresh minced)
3 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame seeds

2 cups basmati or jasmine rice**
3 and 7/8 cup water
1 tsp salt

Rinse rice well and start cooking with water and salt on medium heat. Once it starts boiling, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes.

In a large frying pan or wok, heat oil on medium/high heat. You can use peanut oil or canola, but I had Olive oil handy so I just used that. Add ginger and garlic and cook for a minute or so, stirring constantly.

Add bok choy and cook, moving it gently but constantly so the garlic and ginger don’t burn.  Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add eggplants and peppers and continue cooking and tossing for another minute.

Add oyster sauce, fish sauce and soy sauce and cook for another minute or so until everything is warmed through. If the bottom of the pan is starting to brown too much, add a couple of tablespoons of water, and scrape up the bottom.

Remove from heat, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve over rice.

*You could probably substitute a small regular eggplant for the Chinese eggplants. Don’t think it would be the same without the Bok Choy. If you can only get regular bok choy, wash and pat it dry and then slice it into four quarters.

** Jasmine or another long grain rice would be great, but I always have basmati, so that’s what I used.

Ina’s Herb-Marinated Loin of Pork

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Served for Christmas Lunch this year with Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad and Baked Apple Pancakes.  It’s from Ina Garten’s “Back to Basics” cookbook. So delicious and so easy!

Ingredients

3/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp minced Garlic
1 1/2 Tbsp minced fresh Rosemary (or 1 1/2 tsp dried)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh Thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
Kosher Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
3 Pork Tenderloins (about 3 lbs.)

Combine everything (including 2 tsp salt in a 1 gallon ziploc bag. Mix really well. Add the pork tenderloins and coat with marinade. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven 400. Remove the pork tenderloins from the bag, letting excess liquids run off but keeping herby stuff on the meat. Place on a baking dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees.

Remove from oven, cover with foil and let sit for another 10 minutes. Cut against the grain in 1/2″ slices.

The kids suggested that next time, I try a reverse sear on this, cooking it at 400 for 25-30 minutes and then broiling it for the last 5 minutes, to get a darker outer color. As long as you hit 145 degrees, either way is great.

Ina actually grills hers – for 15 to 25 minutes turning to brown all sides, until meat hits 137 degrees. Then she covers with foil and lets sit for 10 minutes.  Winter in Nebraska made grilling a no go – but even roasted, it was so delicious and easy!

I look forward to trying this marinade with boneless, skinless chicken or turkey breasts.

Ina’s Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad

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Photo by Jonathan Pielmayer on Unsplash

We are pretty lowkey on Christmas Day:  gifts and stocking with the kids in the morning  with lots of good coffee.  But I do like to make a good Christmas Lunch.  This year I made Roasted Carrot Salad, a Pork Tenderloin and Maya’s request: Baked Apple Pancakes.

This recipe is outstanding – from Ina Garten’s “Cooking for Jeffrey.” You can easily roast the carrots and soak the cranberries the day before and then assemble the salad in minutes.

Ingredients

2 lbs. carrots, peeled and cut in diagonal slices 1″ wide and 2″ long
Olive Oil
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 cup real maple syrup
2/3 cup Craisins
2/3 cup orange juice
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar (Ina uses sherry, but I didn’t have any.)
2 garlic cloves, grated on a microplane, or 1 tsp crushed garlic
6 oz. baby arugula
6 oz. feta cheese crumbles (Ina uses goat cheese, medium-diced)
2/3 cup roasted salted whole almonds (Ina uses Marcona almonds)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a medium bowl, toss carrots, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Dump everything onto a big sheet pan, and roast for 20 minutes. (Use two sheet pans if needed.) Toss after 10 minutes so they brown nicely all over. Remove from oven, drizzle with maple syrup, toss again and and roast for another 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.

Combine cranberries and orange juice in a small pan and simmer for 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine vinegar, garlic and 1/2 tsp salt. Whisk in 3 Tbsp olive oil.

In a large bowl, toss together carrots, arugulas, craisins with all liquid, feta, vinaigrette and almonds.

Serve on a white platter. So good!

To make ahead, cook the carrots, soak the cranberries in orange juice, and make the vinaigrette in a small mason jar. Take everything out an hour before serving, so it can warm to room temperature and put salad together.  

Portobello Mushroom Lasagna

portobello-lasagnaThis is one of Ina Garten’s recipes from “Barefoot Contessa at Home.”  It is a surprisingly easy dish to make and was really delicious.  I oohed and aahed about it so much that my friend Donna photographed the cookbook page.  So Donna, this recipe is for you!

Ingredients

kosher salt
good olive oil
12 lasagna noodles
4 cups whole milk
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 lbs Portobello mushrooms (I used three 8 oz packages of sliced Baby Bellos.)
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375.
Bring a large pot of water to boil with a Tbsp of salt and a splash of oil. Add lasagna noodles and cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Drain and set aside.

Heat milk in a glass container in the microwave until just starting to bubble at the edges. In a large saucepan, melt 1 stick of butter and add the flour. Cook, stirring constantly for one minute. Add the hot milk, 1 Tbsp salt, the pepper and nutmeg and cook over medium heat stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened, for 3-5 minutes.

In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp of butter and 2 Tbsp of oil, until shimmering. Add the first 8 oz. container of mushrooms. Saute for 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms have released some of their juices and are starting to get golden edges.

Remove from pan, add a little more oil and butter and start second container of mushrooms. You’ll do the same for the third container.

Since each container gets its own layer of the lasagna, you can start creating the layers while the second and third batch of mushrooms are cooking.

To assemble the lasagna, pour about 1/3 of a cup of sauce in the bottom of a rectangular, ceramic baking dish. (My dish held three full lasagna noodles perfectly.)

Next, put three lasagna noodles, then about a cup of sauce, then the 1st batch of mushrooms, and about a 1/4 of the Parmesan. Second layer: again noodles, then sauce, then mushrooms and then Parmesan. Third layer: again noodles, then sauce, then mushrooms and then Parmesan. Add last three noodles and pour remaining sauce on top and sprinkle remaining Parmesan.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until the top is browned and the sauce is bubbly and hot. Let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes and serve hot. Yum!