Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ham and Lentil Soup

I had big plans for those lentils, I really did. But, then I made this soup and although it was tasty, it looked a wee bit unappetizing, and I became afraid. Afraid not of the lentils themselves - but of what they can become when matched with a immersion blender.

Silly, silly me.

So, after finding 3 bags of lentils (the green variety) in the pantry, I knew that I must search for a recipe that would highlight the little disc-shaped legume and bring it to it's former glory. Since I've been on a soup kick, it only seemed natural that the recipe I would give the thumbs up to would be...soup. Ham and Lentil Soup. Brace yourself for some serious "yum."


1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery sticks, washed and diced
8 oz. cubed ham
1 1/2 cups dried green lentils
4-6 cups of chicken stock
1/2 cup dry vermouth
1 can of stewed tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
2 cups baby spinach
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried parsley

Heat oil and butter in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots and celery and cook, stirring often, until onion becomes translucent. Add vermouth and continue to cook until vermouth reduces by half. Add ham, lentils and tomatoes - followed by 4 cups of chicken stock. Bring to a boil, and cook (with lid on) for about 15-20 minutes, or until lentils are al'dente. Take lid off, add spinach and season with dried herbs and salt and pepper. The spinach will immediately wilt down. If soup is too thick for your liking, add more chicken stock until it becomes the consistency you desire.

If you are not a lentil fan, prepare to be converted!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pasta Fagioli

I'm a sucka for soup.

I prefer cream based soups to clear broth soups in the winter, but in the summer I really like chunky, fresh from the garden (obviously, not my garden) "meal all in one" soups, that provide leftovers for days.

I've had this Pasta Fagioli recipe stuck in my head for days, after cleaning out my pantry and happening across 3 separate boxes of dilatini pasta and 5 cans of cannalini beans! Sometimes when I grocery shop, my stomach takes over without my mind realizing it - so it's no wonder I've been craving Pasta Fagioli...the ingredients were calling my name from behind closed doors for a few weeks now!

I really like this soup because it is not only simple and economical, but it feeds an army and is so tasty. Unlike some other soups, Pasta Fagioli is flavorful immediately. Try it, and get on the Pasta Fagioli Love Train!

All aboard! The Fagioli Love Train is departing!


2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, washed and chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup dry vermouth
1 large can (28 oz) of whole stewed tomatoes, with juice
2 cans white or cannalini beans, well rinsed
4-6 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups cooked ditalini pasta (or any other small pasta)
2 tbsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried thyme

In a large stock pot, heat butter and oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic stirring occassionally until onion is translucent. Add bay leaf and red pepper flake and stir to combine. Add vermouth and cook until liquid reduces and alcohol cooks out.

Meanwhile, rinse beans completely. Add beans, canned tomatoes with juice and chicken stock to pot. Bring to a boil and cook until vegetables are tender. Add herbs, and season with salt and pepper. Before service, add cooked pasta. (Pasta will absorb liquid, so I like to keep the pasta completely separate so it doesn't overcook, or "bloat.")

I've made this same recipe and added zuchinni and squash into the vegetable medley. I've also switched out the chicken stock for vegetable stock.

Some people are scared of red pepper flake, but I've found that if you add the spice at the beginning of the cooking process, it looses some of it's heat and adds just a small kick at the end when you are ready to serve it.

It's important to get a little of each ingredient on the spoon!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


As much as I would like to proclaim from the mountaintops that I can grow food from the earth with my own two hands, I cannot. I kill most things I look at. I try, I really do. I planted some parsley, basil and chives at the beginning of the summer - and they were growing nice and lush, until I forgot to water them.

Plants need water, plants need water, plants need water.

Lucky for me, a coworker has a much greener thumb than I, and she doesn't mind sharing her bounty, for which I am forever grateful. I left work last Friday with a huge bundle of fresh basil just wanting to be made into homemade pesto!


1 bunch fresh basil, leaves cleaned and removed
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts*
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp grated lemon peel
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil

In a food processor, blend together basil, pine nuts, garlic, lemon peel and juice and salt and pepper. While blending, stream in olive oil until the pesto reaches the desired consistancy. (I like it a little runny, so I use more oil.)

Pesto works well on meats such as chicken, beef and fish...and it of course, it is delicious as a pasta sauce. I like to also use it in soups for an extra punch of flavor, and I also add it to homemade pizza, under the tomato sauce.

Want pesto all year round? After preparation, freeze it in ice cube trays!

Of course, I went the traditional route and enjoyed this batch with some pasta.

*To toast your pine nuts: place nuts in a single layer in a dry skillet. Bring skillet to medium heat, shaking nuts every couple of seconds so they do not burn. When they turn a golden brown, take them off the heat. Toasting your nuts brings out the natural oils and develops the flavor. You can certainly make pesto without doing this step, but it won't be as tasty!