Sunday, October 26, 2008

Comforting Vegetable Soup

This is a basic recipe - a soup for when you're sick, or the weather's chilly, or you just plain want soup. I was inspired to make the soup this week; because a co-worker was under the weather, and one of the things I miss most about living alone is having someone for whom I can cook. So the soup was good for both of us in its own way!

Optional: home made vegetable stock. One of the things I do is save vegetable scraps, like stumps from a bunch of celery, the centres of heads of cabbage, the hard ends of asparagus, onion bits, carrot ends, etc. I keep them in a plastic bag in the freezer, and when it gets full I either make soup and start another, or I simply discard them. What I do is put my scraps into my large pot and cover them with water (this is why I haven't written any amounts here. It will depend on what you have on hand or care to use.) I also like to add a bay leaf and a clove or two of garlic as well as a splash of olive oil. I then boil for at least 10 minutes, and as long as 20. Then I strain the pieces and throw them out, leaving myself with a stock to which I add water and salt to taste. Here's what it may look like, depending on what vegetables you've used:

At this point I add the vegetables and protein that I want to have in the soup. For this recipe I used:

4c stock, salted to taste
1 1/2c roughly chopped carrots
1 1/2c roughly chopped celery
2 slabs of Marjon Grilled Tofu, cubed

I know I've plugged this product before. I am not sure if it's available everywhere; but you may be able to find something like it if not. Here's a photo for those visual types:

Finally, I simmer the soup for a little while until the carrots are to the level of tenderness I like. This takes around 7-10 minutes. I prefer my vegetables to be on the firm side, so adjust this to as desired. This will be from 3 large servings to 5 or 6 small ones.

That's it. If you used a store-bought or bouillon for your broth, this can be ready with very little mess or work; but even if you make your own broth, it isn't so hard. Here's a picture of the soup still in the pan. (I got camera-happy this recipe.)

The main thing to remember about this recipe - as with most of my others - is that you can adjust them to your own taste. You could make this with chicken for example, and you can add rice or pasta if desired. I am not fond of how mushy the pasta gets when I leave it in over night; but I did make one serving of macaroni when I had this for dinner, and it worked well.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Cracked-pepper Fettuccine with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella

It has been a while. Unfortunately living alone isn't as conducive to nice meals as I'd like; but I try to capture them when I have them. I also try to keep it fairly simple on this blog, appropriate for a person living alone to use for dinner and lunch the following day. After all, bringing lunch to work is a lot healthier and more economical than buying it every day!

Today's meal was inspired by my trip to the St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market, now being held in Progress Energy Park next to Al Lang Field. This past Saturday was its first one of the season, and the day couldn't have been more glorious, with lovely breezes coming in from the bay. I got many things, including sun-dried tomatoes, a beautiful bunch of radishes, a couple kinds of cheese, some fresh mini-loaves of bread, some cracked-pepper pasta, a breakfast empanada, some mildly sweet café con leche, and some dog treats.

That night at home I surveyed my treasures and put together the meal you see above: cracked-pepper pasta with a bit of butter and olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, and some chunks of fresh mozzarella added at the end. It was quite simple to put together, and promised delicious leftovers.

1/2 lb fettuccine (in this case, mine was the specialty type mentioned above.)
just under 1/4 c roughly-chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 large fresh mozzarella ball, or a 1 1/4 c of the mini-ovolines.
1/2 TB butter
1/2 TB olive oil (or more if it seems too dry.)
salt to taste
black pepper to taste (if you have plain pasta.)

I set salted water to boil for the pasta, and while I waited for that, I chopped my sun-dried tomatoes. Mine came whole; but many kinds are already chopped. I set those aside, and by then my water was boiling so I put the pasta in and while that got started, I cut the mozzarella into bite-size chunks. I set those aside, too, and then attended to stirring my fettuccine a few more times before it was finished al dente - around 8 minutes.

While I drained the fettuccine, I melted the butter in the same pan, and added the olive oil, and sun-dried tomatoes. I gave those a few stirs to heat through. Then I added the pasta back into the pan and tossed it all together. After that I put it in a bowl and put some of the mozzarella on top so that it didn't melt; but retained its fresh, milky coolness.

This makes two to four servings and keeps well overnight in the refrigerator. The only suggestion is to keep the mozzarella separate until you're ready to use it so it doesn't melt.