Sunday, July 24, 2011

Soup in the Summer? Yes!

I love filling my house with the warm aromas of simmering soups on crisp Fall afternoons & chilly Winter evenings. Soup just seems to warm your body and soul. Recently, my husband underwent a dental procedure and could only have semi-soft food. I immediately thought of ten different soups I loved & could make for him; but wait a second, I thought, it's July & 92 degrees outside. How could I possibly make soup?? Well, I had no choice, the man had to eat, so I put aside my prejudice against soup in the Summer & pressed on. For selfish reasons, I chose Sausage, Tomato & Orzo Soup, which is one of my hands-down favorites. One of the bonuses of this recipe is that it calls for two tomatoes...back to the farm stand I go!  I have been preparing this mouth-watering soup for years, but have never made it in the Summer.  With hindsight being 20/20, I now see the genius in Summer preparation of this dish.  The tomatoes play a major role, so fresh farmstand tomatoes take this recipe to an epic level.  I must admit that I no longer feel that I can't make soup in the Summer, it was fabulous! I can't wait for our next Summer soup night; but let's leave the dentist out of it!

Sausage, Tomato & Orzo Soup

For the Parmesan croutons:
3 C baguette, cubed
1/2 C Parmesan, grated

For the soup:
1lb. Link Italian sausage, sliced into 1" pieces
2C onions, diced
1 T garlic, minced
2 tsp. Dried Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. Red pepper flakes, or to taste (optional)
1/2 C dry white wine
4 C (32oz.) chicken broth
2 C tomatoes, seeded & diced
1/2 C dry orzo pasta
3 C fresh spinach, chopped
Parmesan croutons

The Parmesan croutons take this soup over the top. They only take a few minutes to make, so don't skip this step!

Toast baguette cubes in 2T olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove pan from heat, toss with Parmesan;set aside.

Saute sausage in 2T olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until browned. Add the onion, garlic, and seasonings; cook 3-4 minutes, or until the onion is soft.

Deglaze with wine & reduce until almost evaporated. Add broth, tomatoes & orzo; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer about 10 minutes, or until pasta is cooked.

Stir in spinach until wilted. Serve soup with croutons on top.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Tomatoes! Tomatoes! Tomatoes!

July in the South is a month that brings some of the hottest days of the summer, but it also brings the beloved tomato season!!!  While one can go to the grocery store any time of the year and procure tomatoes, summer is the only time when you can get "real" tomatoes.  Who makes a tomato sandwich in December?  Or a tomato pie in February?  Really.  My anticipation of fresh Summer tomatoes is on par with Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin.  I kid you not.  My mouth waters at the thought of white bread, Hellman's mayonnaise, sliced Summer tomatoes & a hint of salt.  Now that's heaven.  Pulling into the gravel lot of the farm stand causes my heart rate to increase a bit, anticipating the bounty I am about to behold.  I get my bags full of tomatoes (who can leave with just one?) and rush home to my waiting loaf of white bread.  If I close my eyes, I almost feel like a kid again, sitting at my mother's kitchen table eating that much loved summer treat.  What are you waiting for?  I'll see you at the farm stand.......

Here are two of my favorite tomato recipes (besides the tomato sandwich, of course); Cucumber & Tomato Salad and Tomato Pie.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!!

Cucumber & Tomato Salad

2 cucumbers, peeled & thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, peeled & sliced (*see note below on peeling tomatoes)
1 large vidalia onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp. dill
1 T white vinegar
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper (or to taste)
1/4 C parsley, chopped
2 T Canola oil

Put cucumbers, tomatoes & onions in large bowl.  Combine remaining ingredients.  Toss all together & chill two hours before serving.

*To peel a tomato.  Bring a small pot of water to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Carefully drop tomato into water for about 10 seconds.  Remove from water & peel (the peel will easily pull off).

Tomato Pie

4 tomatoes, peeled & sliced
12 fresh basil leaves, chopped
3/4 cup thinly sliced vidalia onion
1 (9") pre-baked deep dish pie shell*
1 C grated mozzarella
1 C grated cheddar
1 C mayonnaise
salt & pepper to taste

Bake pie crust according to package directions.  Set aside.
Place tomatoes on wire rack, sprinkle both sides with salt & let drain approximately 10 minutes.
Layer tomato, basil & onion in pie shell.  Combine cheeses & mayonnaise.  Spread over top. 
Bake 350 degrees, 30 minutes.
Serve warm.

*I use Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts found in the dairy section of the grocery store.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fourth of July Treat!

Need a last minute idea for the 4th?  How about Mini Cheese Cake bites with strawberries & blueberries?  They make a wonderful red, white & blue dessert that the whole family will enjoy!  I challenge you to eat just one!

Merry Cheese Cakes

1 C all-purpose flour
1/3 C butter, softened
1/2 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C chopped walnuts

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 C granulated sugar
1 egg
2 T milk
2 T lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla
Pie Filling (cherry, strawberry, blueberry)

Preheat oven to 350.
Combine first 3 ingredients (do not cream butter first).  Beat with mixer at low speed until particles are fine.  Stir in nuts.  Reserve 1 cup of mixture; put remainder in ungreased 8" square glass dish.  Bake 8 - 10 miutes, until lightly browned.  Remove from oven.
In small bowl combine filling ingredients & blend until smooth.  Spread over crust.  Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.
Return to oven for 25 - 30 minutes or until lightly browned.
Cool & cut into squares.  Top with pie filling & serve.