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Entries in soup (7)

Monday
Jan302012

Potatoes for Rocky

My grandfather's (on Marmo's side) name was Rocco. He also responded to "Rocky" and "Rock".

Grandpa was my all-time favorite family member. A strong and silent, old-school Italian man. He wasn't much of a conversationalist but you knew where he stood. And you knew where you stood with him.

Rocky was a mechanic by trade, fought in World War II, was an accomplished golfer, and had only one child – a daughter, my mom.

I think this last fact was the reason Grandpa and I had such a close relationship. I say "close," but I could probably count the number of conversations he and I had on one hand.

Our relationship was some kind of mutual trust and respect stemming from the fact that he raised my mom and knew she was a smart, responsible and respectable woman. He assumed I inherited these qualities. In fact, he would often mix up the two of us, calling me, "Mar-Elana" a confused combination of Marlene and Elana.

For my 17th birthday, Grandpa insisted I have a car. A new one. He handed over some money to my parents so they could purchase said vehicle for me, but what he gave them would only cover half of a low-end vehicle. My parents felt too badly to tell him it wasn't enough, so they pitched in the rest. And Rosebud, a 1994 Toyota Tercel came into my possession.

In his younger days, Grandpa was an accomplished golfer. He won countless local tournaments and was frequently featured in the newspaper:

Some press clippings.

My mom even caddied for him:

He brought home trophy after trophy. When I was back at Iaciofano HQ over Thanksgiving, Marmo requested I take some photos of all these golfing trophies. Here are a few highlights:

The above is the same trophy featured in the photo below:

Another impressive win.

When it came to food, Grandpa kept it pretty simple. Being the old-school Italian man that he was, you'd expect him to like spaghetti and meatballs. And he did. But what I remember him liking most were potatoes. Let's be clear: Marmo is a great cook. But a baked potato seems to be beyond her culinary capabilities. She'd put what she thought was a cooked potato in front of Grandpa and he'd practically break his teeth trying to chew it. in a soft-spoken tone, he'd comment, "Mar, I don't think this is done."

Indeed it wasn't. Into the microwave with ye, ye undercooked spud!

I may have inherited this undercooked tater gene from Marmo. To compensate for this, I sidestep the activity altogether by roasting, boiling, mashing and liquefying my potatoes. It just seems easier.

Therefore, the following recipe is for Potato Leek Soup – dedicated to both Marmo and Rocco. If my grandfather were a soup, this is the soup he would be – and I don't think he would be offended by that comparison.

Potato leek soup is a simple, quiet soup. Subtle, but not lacking character. Peppery notes give it a kick, while adding a dollop of creme fraiche or Greek yogurt supply a deep, smooth finish.

Here's the recipe (compliments of David Lebowitz):

What You Need:
2-3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
4 leeks, washed and sliced
salt
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme; optional
1/4 teaspoon chile powder
6 cups water
1 1/4-pounds potatoes (I used russet), peeled and cubed
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground white pepper

What To Do:

1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the butter or olive oil over medium heat.

2. Add the slices leeks and season with salt. Cook the leeks over moderate heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until they’re completely soft and wilted.

3. Add the thyme, if using, and chile powder, and stir for about 30 seconds, cooking them with the leeks to release their flavor flavors.

4. Pour in the water, and add the potatoes and bay leaf.

5. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender when poked with a sharp knife. Depending on which potatoes you used, it could take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.

6. Pluck out the bay leaves and puree the soup with the white pepper, seasoning with more salt if necessary. I use an immersion (stick) blender, but if you use a standard blender, be sure not to fill it more than half-full and secure the lid, and cover it with a tea towel when blending, to avoid hot soup or steam for causing problems. Don’t use a food processor as that will make the potato purée gummy.

If the soup is too thick, add a bit more water, until it’s the desired consistency.

Me and Grandpa back in the day

Monday
Dec052011

Eat Your Soup: Lentil Soup with Sausage

I've been doing some food reading lately. I think "lately" might be a rather broad term, as I've generally been obsessed with all manner of food magazines, books, articles and even recipes I find blowing around on the sidewalk.

But I've been trying to find ways to make my own kitchen – a kitchen that cooks for one, with occasional guests – a more efficient, healthy and tasty place.

When I have questions I usually go to books. I feel like there is something impressive about the and printed word. There are a few books I've been reading from that have helped me stock my kitchen for the above purposes, and I will share them with you in a future post.

What seems to be a common theme in terms of healthy, economical cookin' and eatin' can be summed up in one word: SOUP.

With soup, you can clean out the refrigerator of random things that you might have thrown away, not known what to do with, or stared at blankly every time you opened the fridge door until they turned moldy and months down the road you uncover them only to call CDC for backup. Sound familiar? Let's hope not.

Here is a ridiculously simple recipe for Lentil Soup with Sausage. It's healthy, tasty, and you can freeze most of it for use later if you don't feel like downing the whole gallon at one sitting (freezing recommended).

What You Need:
1/2 cup Umbrian Lentils
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 link of sausage (sweet Italian, spicy, turkey, to-furkey...whatever you like!), removed from its casing
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 of a small can of tomato paste
4 cups of water
2 chopped sage leaves
salt and pepper

What You Do:
Boil the 1/2 cup of lentils in water for 20 minutes to cook. Set aside.

In a large stock pot, sauté the chopped onion and celery in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook them until they start to soften and turn translucent - about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the chopped garlic and the 1 link of sausage. Break apart the sausage into small chunks with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Cook for about 7-10 minutes.

Deglaze by adding 1/2 cup white wine.

Then add the half can of tomato paste and 4 cups of water.

Simmer for 15 minutes, then add the cooked lentils and 2 chopped sage leaves.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve. With cheese and crackers!

Tuesday
Nov292011

Moroccan Carrot Soup for the Overstuffed Soul

How many of you may have over indulged over the Thanksgiving weekend. Good for you!

But you may be feeling the need to dial it down. Just a notch. On the belt.

Vegetables are a great vehicle for this kind of dialing it down. Just ask them. Well, maybe don't. They are very modest...the strong silent type.

I've been feeling that soups are a fantastic way to accomplish this strong and silent diet dial down. They allow me to incorporate vegetables into my diet in a sneaky-stay-low-so-as-not-to-be-detected way. I like that.

This Moroccan Carrot Soup is one I pulled from my binder archive of recipes. The ones I forget I have, or ever was interested in cooking in the first place. I found it again one day by happy accident. It's originally from the April 2010 issue Bon Appetit magazine.

The carrots puree into a creamy dream, and the cumin and allspice give it a gentle Moroccan flavor that is sweet and savory. I used Chobani non-fat plain yogurt for the dollop on top. It gives the whole bowl an added richness and smoothness. Make this, freeze some of it for later. Eat it all week. Until Christmas. Or until I post the next soup recipe...

What You Need:

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1 cup chopped white onion
1 pound large carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 22/3 cups)
2 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup plain yogurt, stirred to loosen
   
What You Do:
Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 2 minutes.

Mix in the carrots.

Add broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes.

At this point you can toast your real cumin seeds. I did not do any such thing. I used ground cumin. Please know, I have nothing against toasting real cumin seeds. I even believe Bon Appetit's assertion that it's surprisingly easy to do. I just didn't feel like buying them when I had ground cumin in the pantry.

HOWEVER, you should know that you will get better flavor from real cumin seeds. BUT you can also warm ground cumin in a pan with a little olive oil and it will release a bit more of the flavor that's been locked up in that plastic container at the back of your spice rack since heavens only knows when.

Stir cumin seeds in small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes; cool. Finely grind in spice mill.

Remove soup from heat. Puree in batches in blender until smooth. Return to same pan. Whisk in honey, lemon juice, and allspice. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle yogurt over; sprinkle generously with cumin.

Monday
Nov282011

Highlights from a Iaciofano Thanksgiving 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Monday! How was everyone's holiday? Still recovering? I thought so. Before we wander too far away from the dinner table, I'd like to recap the Iaciofano Family Thanksgiving 2011.

As usual, Marmo made way too much food. John ate way too much apple pie. Aunt Emily drank way too much gin (thank goodness), The Box did way too much complaining about turkey being unpalatable. And I was generally good natured, pleasant, and fun to be around. I'm sure everyone would agree with that assessment.

Ahem! What follows below are the food-related highlights from our family Thanksgiving. These recipes can be used throughout your holiday season. Some of the (especially the featured cocktail) should be earmarked for use throughout the year....

I learned to make this drink at a Champagne Cocktail class given at the Astor Center. We made a lot of cocktails that night. At least I think we did.... This one is slightly sweet thanks to the Grand Marinier, delightfully citrusy, and fizz-tastic. It's fun, festive, and they go down rather easily.

The Moonwalk Champagne Cocktail

What You Need:
Makes 2 drink cocktails
A Cocktail Mixer, strainer, shot glass
Lots of ice cubes
Champagne - get one you would drink on its own, without additions
Grand Marinier
Grapefruit juice
1 orange
1 teaspoon sugar
2 champagne flutes

What You Do:
Fill your cocktail mixer with ice.

Pour two shot glasses worth of Grand Marinier into the mixer.

Pour one shot glass of grapefruit juice into the mixer.

Sprinkle the teaspoon of sugar into the mixer.

Seal the mixer and shake it well for about 10 seconds. Don't be afraid to make lots of noise - that's the fun part (aside from drinking the resulting cocktail, that is).

Fill the champagne flutes half full with the resulting mixture.

Top with champagne.

With a peeler, peel away a two small curls of orange rind. Twist, and plop into the filled champagne flutes.

Serve! Make more. Serve those too....

This soup was the clear winner of the meal. Is it weird for a soup to walk away with the crown? Maybe but this Roasted Chestnut and Hazelnut Soup had it all: creamy, nutty and smoky (bacon AND prosciutto!). Make this ALL WINTER LONG. Please.

What You Need:
Makes 6 servings - from the Silver Palette Cookbook
1 pound raw chestnuts in shells
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons chopped bacon
3 tablespoons chopped prosciutto
1 large yellow onion, chopped
5 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon chervil
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup dry white wine
6 cups of chicken stock
1 cup hazelnuts
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup brandy
Creme Fraiche for garnish

What You Do:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Roast the chestnuts according to this recipe.

Melt the butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the bacon, prosciutto, onion, celery, carrots, thyme, chervil, salt and pepper. Sauté until the vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes.

Add the wine and the stock. Stir in the chestnuts. Heat to boiling. Then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, toast the hazelnuts in the oven (or the toaster oven!) at 350 degrees until they begin to brown - about 15 minutes (less time in the toaster oven as it takes less time to heat up). Remove from the oven and rub the hazelnuts back and forth in a kitchen towel to remove the skins. Let them cool and then chop them coarsely by hand or in a food processor.

When the soup has simmered for 45 minutes, remove it from the heat and stir in the milk, cream and brandy.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor, adding a handful of hazelnuts to each batch. Pour the pureed soup into a clean pot, taste and adjust the seasonings if you like.

Gently reheat the soup until it is hot. Ladle it into small bowls and garnish each with a dollop of Creme Fraiche.

For the turkey (seen above), there was much debate. Initially, we were going to fry one. All poultry puns aside, we chickened out. Instead, we decided on a Maple Glazed Turkey, based on this recipe from Martha Stewart. We even made The Box go to the grocery store on Thanksgiving Day to pick up the Riesling. We are nothing if not compassionate.

For side dishes, we did a little experimentation. Usually, we got for a Cauliflower Gratinee – a creamy, baked perfection of a dish that just happens to be vegetable based.

This time, we decided to ditch the cream (I really don't know why) and try out the Crispy Cauliflower with Capers, Raisins and Breadcrumbs recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine. The combination of raisins and capers was my favorite part of this dish, as it provided that salty sweet flavor combination that I enjoy so much. It was a touch dry, and I prefer the gut-busting cream option (it's the holidays, after all, people).

For dessert the clear winner was the Apple Pie. Every year Marmo claims that this is the best pie she's made yet. She wonders if it's a new kind of butter she used.

To be honest, the pie tastes the same to me every year - AMAZING. It really is, hands down, the best apple pie I have ever had. EVER. The pie was gone by the end of the night. Can you guess who ate the whole thing? It wasn't me this time.

Seriously.

Monday
Jun202011

Fraudulent Clam Chowder from The Box!

Yesterday was Father's Day. Traditionally for Father's Day I use Photoshop to cobble together some random and ridiculous card for The Box. Past cards have featured The Box at DaVinci's Last Supper table, on the cover of Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince, etc. This year we have a blog. I can embarrass him publicly, so that is exactly what I am doing.

The above photo shows The Box back in the day, when he was a strapping life guard in Long Beach Island. Those were the days, huh, Box? Notice he is the one on the life guard chair WITHOUT the girls. Just sayin'.

Speaking of Long Beach Island, as a family we have been lucky enough to enjoy a summer house there. In our detached garage lives a permanent resident - the beer pong table that John rescued many summers ago. The Box and I are a pong team. Despite his size, The Box is a lightweight when it comes to beer injestion. He gets a little silly after 5 or so games, and need a life preserver. And a nap (Above photo: Exhibit A).

Exhibit B: Beer + silliness = funny hat. And yes, i bought him that t-shirt.

When he is not playing beer pong, napping or flexing his muscles (he still does this even sans life guard chair), The Box enjoys playing tricks. Mostly on me. One such trick involved food. You can joke with me about a lot of things. Not food. Just don't do it. Are we clear?

But let's let The Box explain in his own words:

Ardent followers of this blog have certainly noticed the outstanding artwork; fantastic photography; and recipe detail that regularly appear. Elana is the responsible party.

Indeed, unique drive and focus, combined with an “I wanted it yesterday” patience level have always characterized Elana. The image I have is of a much better looking cross between General George Patton and Hannibal Lecter.

Thus, as you may imagine, Elana can be difficult to please (or to fool).

Keeping the aforementioned personal characteristics in mind, some years ago I made an irresponsible promise to make Elana my all-world homemade New England clam chowder. Mind you, this promise was made by someone (me) who rarely cooks anything, let alone, a soup containing a number of cooked ingredients. Of course, this did not stop me from assuring Elana that the homemade New England chowder would be the best that she ever had.

The great day came and Elana arrived home to find a bubbling pot of New England clam chowder awaiting her. She devoured two bowls of the chowder amidst much lip-smacking, followed by effusive compliments on my culinary skills. Parenthetically, I am seldom used to receiving such compliments from my daughter, who is more likely to anoint me with such comments as “…my g.p.a. in college was three times yours…”.

Compliments bestowed on me continued, unabated, until later that evening when, much to my chagrin, she found several cans of Campbell’s Chunky Style New England Clam Chowder in the garbage. At that point, all of the praise turned to scorn and abuse.

Notwithstanding, in her lighter moments (which occur somewhat less frequently than the Leonid Meteor Shower) Elana will acknowledge that the chowder was some of the best she has ever had. Hence, the “recipe”.

Fraudulent New England Clam Chowder Cobbled Together by The Box

Start with four cans of Campbell’s Chunky Style New England Clam Chowder. For me, each can equals one large (bowl) serving.

Open (4) cans (a must) and pour contents into a large saucepan.

Start heating at low heat.

Add four teaspoons of butter and allow to melt. Stir frequently.

Toss in two peeled garlic cloves.

Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Add one quarter diced Vidalia onion.

Add a can of diced/chopped clams. Make sure to drain off the juice first.

Continue to simmer for about fifteen minutes following which your chowder is ready to serve.

Notes:
Campbell’s is my favorite because it is the thickest New England style mass-market chowder that I have found and good New England chowder should be thick.

Trust me, people, this will be good. Just remember, if you intend to pass this off as your own creation, make sure you secretly dispose of the empty soup cans.

Happy Father's Day, Box! Love General Patton/Hannibal Lecter and the other one (John).