Tortellini, Spinach, & “Sausage” Soup – 1/67

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Dear blog followers, all 7 of you, what would you say if I changed this up a little bit?

This past weekend, I was delighted to be surrounded by the wonderful women in my life at my bridal shower. It still seems sorta surreal, the feeling of 35 women from all moments of my life answering Ilanna-related trivia questions and getting to know each other over silly games. There were cousins (flying in from Michigan!), aunts (Vermont!), grandmas (well, they’re local…), generations-old family friends (Toronto!), Daniel’s amazingly supportive family (Texas!), and a smattering of my friends from middle school, college, and life in New York City. The only word I can use to describe the weekend is faklempt — overwhelmed by love and kindness and good wishes. Thanks, mom and sister, for putting this all together.

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The brunch will live on by the recipe book these women put together for me, filled with holiday favorites, easy dinners, and lots of desserts. I’m so lucky to have this collection of recipes (and new kitchen implements and ingredients) to cook from for the next forever. (Although it’s not exactly like I’m a little country Pollyanna who’s never cooked a meal and is now forced to make dinner every night for her new husband, who then scolds her for overcooking the chicken. Actually, to be honest, I probably would overcook chicken if I tried to make it since I have no idea how. Well then.)

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All this to say, Daniel and I want to cook every recipe from this new binder by our first anniversary. By March 16, 2020, we will have made all 67(ish) dishes so lovingly bestowed on us. I’ll try to blog them. We’ll see how quickly this fails (please don’t hold it against me if this is the only one.)

To start, tortellini “sausage” spinach soup! Easy and perfect for this day, the first day I had to break out my giant winter jacket. I took a couple liberties with it. Reminds me of the meals we’d make in college in my senior year apartment 🙂 

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one year ago: tapado (coconut fish stew) (also this totally wasn’t a year ago, but… it was in 2017?)
two years ago: mizuna miso soup (soup theme!!)
three years ago: butternut and black bean stuffed poblano peppers
four years ago: cheesy bulgur risotto with broccoli and tomatoes 

Tortellini, Spinach, and “Sausage” Soup

4-6 servings

Saute one chopped onion in olive oil in a big pot until it’s soft, about 10 minutes. Add 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 or 2 chopped carrots, a big pinch of red pepper flakes, some smoked paprika, and some veggie sausage, cut into small chunks. (I did two “sausages”, though the recipe called for a pound, and it was enough.) Cook for another 10 minutes or so, until sausage is browned and carrots have softened.

Add: 32 ounces broth, a 28-oz can crushed tomatoes, a bunch of chopped basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn down heat. Simmer for 25 minutes.

Add a 9-oz package of refrigerated tortellini and two big handfuls of baby spinach. Cook for 7 minutes, uncovered, until tortellini is soft. Serve each portion with extra basil and grated parmesan.

Thanks to Daniel’s cousins Michele and Robin for the base recipe and the bowls! 1 down. 66 to go.

 

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Gochujang-Roasted Squash Pasta Salad

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Some things that have happened since July 3rd (the last time I posted here… yikes!)

  • I saw the total eclipse on my birthday on a ranch in Idaho, after two days of amazing hikes with my family. Can’t think of a better way to ring in my 28th year. Also, Hanna made me an amazing red wine chocolate cake that I might need every year from here on out…

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  • I made another wedding cake! (Although this one not of the tiered, and therefore uber-impressive, variety.) Despite its’ singular level, it was a giant success and work of love, and I couldn’t be happier to bestow it upon dear friends. Congrats, Michael and Joanna!

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  • And while we’re on this wedding tangent, Daniel and I got engaged! I am the luckiest lady in the whole world. After 4½ years together, he’s not ready to call it quits yet! Thankfully it happened right before the Texan pig roast and not at it, as I can’t believe that would be the most auspicious way to start the next chapter of my life. (But hey, I tried the pig! And didn’t hate it. But no need for any more pig for another 5 years or so.)

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  • Daniel, my adorable fiance, started a new job. He went out to California for three weeks, leaving me by my lonesome. I kept busier than I meant to, but did make some great dinner + leftovers for myself. One week was a giant batch of sweet potato curry, one week featured cauliflower potato soup, but the third week had this salad on repeat: Gochujang-roasted squash pasta salad. Let’s just say it was a week of exciting lunch times. California shmalifornia.

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  • Daniel and I embarked on a gnocchi-making project, a homemade pho adventure, introduced friends to NYC’s best deep dish pizza, had a “battle of the city” (NYC vs SF) pupusa contest (NYCs are cheaper and bigger), discovered the cutest onigiri restaurant near my work, and ate a good many heirloom tomato and white bread sandwiches. I think this is the part of married life I’m looking forward to — the little discoveries we keep finding together, the nightly ritual of sharing a meal, and working side-by-side on projects, big and small. This is how you measure, measure a 5-month-gap. 😉
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Proud of our veggie pho! From Bowl by Lucas Volger

Honestly, when I was making that Gochujang-roasted squash pasta salad I wasn’t really concerned with documenting or taking pictures. But after I ate it for lunch a couple days in a row, I figured it was worth sharing with the world. If you’re looking for something easy, healthy, filling, and cheap, look no further. As such, please allow me a slide for the photos, and use your judgements when following this loose recipe, you talented cooks, you. 

one year ago: key lime pie with salty cracker crust
two years ago: quichon de verdures (Mayan veggie stew)
three years ago: buttermints and mushroom and farro stuffed acorn squash

Gochujang-Roasted Squash Pasta Salad

(squash recipe from Bon Appetit)

1 smallish butternut squash
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (I used black this time but either works)
1 big tablespoon gochujang (Korean pepper paste — could try with sriracha or sambal oelek)
2 tablespoons neutral oil (canola, veg)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 cucumber (unpeeled is fine)
1 red bell pepper
Some big handfuls baby spinach, torn
2 scallions, minced
Bow-tie pasta (I boiled up about a ¼ of a box)

Dressing Ingredients:
Honestly I didn’t measure anything here. I’d start with 1 tablespoon soy sauce, ½-1 teaspooon toasted sesame oil, a big squeeze of honey, and some splashes rice vinegar or lime juice.

Step 1: Squash. Preheat oven to 425. Make squash marinade by combining sesame seeds, gochujang, oil, and soy sauce in a big bowl. Peel squash and slice into small disks. Add to marinade bowl and mix so squash is evenly covered. Transfer to a single layer on baking sheets. Roast up for about 25-30 minutes, or until caramelized and soft and nutty and perfect.

Step 2: Salady things. Cut bell pepper into thin matchstrips. And do the same with the cucumber, getting rid of some seeds. Rinse out that bowl you made the squash marinade in and use it to assemble salad ingredients: spinach, bell pepper, cucumber, scallions, cooked pasta.

Step 3: Dressing. Make some dressing! You don’t need much, since squash is already very flavorful. You just want a little something to add some flavor to the greens and pasta. Start with the dressing recipe above and adjust to your liking. (Don’t try adding tahini, it was a total mistake.)

Step 4: Finish and eat! Add cooked, warm squash to salad bowl (it will wilt the spinach a bit). Add dressing. Taste and doctor until you reach your personal Gochujang-Roasted Squash Pasta Salad nirvana.

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Uh, right, not squash pasta salad, you’ve seen enough of that. I wanted to end on a pupusa note. Yum. 

Italian Egg Drop Soup

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I haven’t posted here since 45’s inauguration. It has felt… inappropriate, I guess. Like, don’t I have something better to do with myself than take photos of food, obsess over editing them, and write these ditties? There are environments to protect, women to march with, immigrants and Muslims to use my voice to shout with. There are politicians to be called, postcards to be written, articles to read and discuss, news briefings to shake my head to and hold back tears. There are “resistance” book clubs to organize and political arts events to attend. There are science and arts budgets and Planned Parenthood to defend. It just seemed like documenting my most recent grain-and-roasted-beet-bowl would seem … inappropriate.

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And then — someone (not sure who) found the Swanky Sweet Potato Instagram account I started well over a year ago but never followed through with. (I thought that shit was private, oops.) And although it’s silly — like, the silliest ever — these continuing notifications about people who have started following the Instagram account for this little blog are convincing me to get my butt back at it. Peer pressure — it works. So you, you out there… you like these rambles? These photos and recipes? You’re okay being distracted from the headlines and the John Oliver monologues and the protests to read a little ditty about soup? Well, okay, you’re right. Sometimes we do just need to think about soup. I will keep the soup coming.

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This soup says spring is on its way, loud and clear. Fresh spring onion, tender greens, parsley, and egg — it is bright, clean, and wholesome. (Also, curiously, has a lot of overlap with what you’d find at a Passover seder. Coincidental, I swear.) Eat it and you’ll feel a whole lot better about yourself than after you eat the gloopy, flavorless, plastic-packaged variety from your local take-out joint, promise. And hopefully also more equipped and ready to handle the unending sea of stupidity and devastation that 45 is serving up daily (though this part I can’t promise). 

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one year ago: roasted chickpea and kale stuffed sweet potatoes with tahini sauce and charred chipotle broccoli tacos
two years ago: simple pasta with smoked scamorza cheese and tomatoes

Italian Egg Drop Soup

adapted from Serious Eats

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 spring onion (or regular), bulb and light green parts, chopped small
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes
7-8 Swiss chard leaves, stems minced and leaves chiffonaded (see here for how-to!)
4 cups broth + 2-3 cups water (or use broth cubes)
Dash of (freshly grated) nutmeg
1 14-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup small uncooked pasta (I used orecchiette)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 eggs
Juice from ½ a lemon
Big handful chopped parsley
Cheese to sprinkle, optional (parmesan is typical, I’ve used both swiss and cheddar)
s&p

In a big soup pot, heat up the olive oil. Add onion (bulb + light green part), garlic, and pepper flakes and sauté on medium heat for about 4 minutes, until translucent. Add the chard stems and a big sprinkle of salt (not leaves yet!) and cook for another 3 minutes.

Next, add broth and/or water, nutmeg, chickpeas, and pasta. Cover and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, uncover and cook at a rollicking boil for another 3 minutes. Add soy sauce and cook for another 2 minutes. Next add Swiss chard greens, return to a boil, and cook for 2 minutes.

Beat eggs together in a spouted measuring cup. Turn down to a simmer and pour eggs into soup while stirring continuously. Cook for another two minutes. Just before serving add a big grind of black pepper, lemon juice, and parsley. Top individual portions with cheese if desired.

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Roasted Green Pepper and Smoked Gouda Pasta

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In college I was sort of obsessed with this one roasted red pepper and smoked gouda soup. They only served it at one of the obscure “cafe”-style dining facilities on campus (confusingly called The Spa because of local history and not due to any imminent massages). I made it a habit to go through The Spa every couple of days in search of this soup. It was my Moby Dick, my elusive prize, a fattening and mouthwatering anticipation that rarely landed. But on those cold Saratoga days, when the stars aligned and the soup flowed free and hearty (well, free with an asterisk, as is everything in college, as in you’ve already paid for it…times 7), and I trudged through the snow to yet another rehearsal at the faraway theater building with a small bowl tucked into my overflowing bag, this soup was everything.

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There’s no shying away from the fat content of this recipe. We have butter, heavy cream, and cheese, all in healthy quantities. And by healthy I mean delicious. This is food that tastes goooood. So serve with a salad, go on a long bike ride later, and quit dwelling on it. And maybe only make it when you have a huge CSA haul of green peppers and you’re not sure you’ve ever even bought a green one before (sorry, greenies, I just love the red ones too much).

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What this sauce has in taste it lacks in beauty. I mean, have you ever even heard of a roasted green pepper recipe? Roasted reds, yes, in soups, pasta sauces, condiments, you name it. But a quick google search for “roasted green pepper pasta sauce” is fairly lackluster, both in recipe quantity and the beauty factor of those that do appear. Forgive the pallid sheen, the light gray (could that count as green?) countenance, the, dare I say, mucus-y apparition in front of you.

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I implore you to give the greenies a chance! It’s not their fault that red peppers are so dang sexy and make such good soup. Even if the green peppers don’t do it for you, hopefully the smoked gouda changes your mind. And I promise you don’t have to be learning Chekhov lines in the student center at 2 am for the roasted pepper and smoked gouda combo to win you over. This version is perky and summery, quick and delicious. Try it and see!  

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one year ago: caramelized fennel with dill and goat cheese (swoon) and a hop down memory lane of all the delicious things I ate last summer

Roasted Green Pepper and Smoked Gouda Pasta

adapted from The Pioneer Woman 

3 green peppers
pasta, about half a box
4 T butter, divided
1 small red onion, diced (or a normal yellow one)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t white wine vinegar
¾ t sugar
¾ cup – 1 cup veggie broth
2-4 T heavy cream
3 T fresh parsley, chopped
½ c smoked gouda, thin slices or grated
s&p

To roast peppers: turn burner to a medium flame. Place one pepper directly on the flame. Cook for about 5 minutes, rotating frequently, until pepper skin is black and puckery and pepper itself is soft and starting to implode. Repeat for remaining peppers. Wrap individually in foil and and set aside for about 10 minutes, or until cool. Use your fingers to easily rub off skins. It’s fine to leave a bit still attached, it just adds depth of flavor! Cut into big strips and set aside.

Meanwhile, make pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat a saute pan over medium heat and add 2 T butter. When melted and shimmery, add onion and garlic and cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until onion just begins to change color.  Add roasted pepper strips and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Transfer onion/pepper mixture to a food processor and process until just blended.

Heat the remaining 2 T butter in the same saute pan. Add pulverized onion/pepper mixture, white wine vinegar, sugar, s&p, and veggie broth. Start with ¾ c broth and add more if you want a thinner sauce (remember it will thicken just a bit when you add cream later.) Stir. Cook until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Add heavy cream and stir to combine. I used 2 T and found it plenty creamy but feel free to keep dolling it out. Yum. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Add pasta, smoked gouda, and parsley into pepper sauce and stir until cheese melts and pasta is coated evenly. Serve with extra cheese and parsley.

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Collard Greens Tomato Sauce & Spaghetti

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You know that video that went viral a couple months back, “Too many cooks”?

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If you haven’t watched it yet, today’s the day! Come on, you know you want to. You’re welcome. Also, you’re welcome for having it stuck in your head for the rest of your life. And butting its repetitive head in where it isn’t welcome ALL THE TIME. Such as:

Going to pick up CSA veggies. For the nth week in a row, we leave with a giganto bag of collards, kale, chard, lettuce, mustard greens, you name it. (Sometimes a couple beets or beans but pretty much only greens.) All I can think (and hum and sing) as we walk home, “Too many greens, too many greens.

Or when on the train and no one is aware of how much space they take up and people want to come ON before you have a chance to get off: “too many dummies, too many dummies

Or (the generic version) when you’re at a restaurant and can’t decide what to order: “too many things, too many things”!

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Did you watch it yet?? Good. It really works for a plethora of occasions. Give it a try! You’ll soon be singing it everywhere and will become immediately annoyed with yourself!

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But really, so many greens. We’ve made soups, 1/2 kale 1/2 sausage lasagna, pasta dishes, stir fries aplenty, and an amazing number of dinners (and breakfasts) of salads or cooked greens plus rice. Brooklyn Beet CSA, come through! I’m ready for a pepper or cuke!

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Until then I will continue to attempt innovation. Earlier this week innovation came in the form of pasta sauce, with a whole tangle of collard greens braised into it. This sauce was delicious — eaten on spaghetti, mixed with leftover brown rice the next day, or just slurped with a spoon. I’m going to recommend the spaghetti route, covered with parmesan and backyard basil. Perhaps served with a side salad? “So many greens, so many greens!

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As I said earlier, you’re welcome. 😉

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one year ago: sweet potato, peach, and black bean tacos and cilantro quinoa soup with spicy shrimp and corn

Collard Greens Tomato Sauce & Spaghetti

by moi and Daniel too

1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, minced
pinch red pepper flakes
1 t dried oregano
2 t tomato paste
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
2 t sugar
1 t red wine vinegar
small handful fresh basil, divided
1 bunch collard greens, ribs removed and chiffonaded
s&p
parmesan, freshly grated (optional, I guess)
spaghetti (or rice for a gluten-free option)

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a wide, deep saucepan. Add onions and a big pinch of salt and cook until they turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano and cook for another 3 minutes or so.

Next, add tomato paste, canned tomatoes and all their juices, sugar, and vinegar. Add tap water to the empty tomato can until it’s ¼ full. Add water to pan. Tear up half the basil leaves and add. Cook for 10 minutes on a slow simmer.

Add your collards. Stir well to totally immerse them.  Cover pan and cook for another 45 minutes or so, until greens are soft and have lost their plasticky appearance. Add s&p as necessary.

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti according to package directions. Once drained, add a bit of sauce (whatever stage it’s in) to keep pasta from sticking together. When ready to eat, top pasta with lots of sauce, torn fresh basil, and freshly grated parmesan for the best experience.

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Simple Pasta with Smoked Scamorza and Tomatoes

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Frequent topics of conversation these days include what city we want to go to next, as based on a mini obsession with the show Street Food Around the World (despite its relentlessly annoying host), and Coffee.

Daniel recently purchased an AeroPress, which, he’ll be the first to tell you, has Changed His Life. Gone are the days of multiple daily visits to our local coffee shop, here to stay are the sink-full of coffee mugs and multiple bags of not-quite-enough-for-a-coffee-but-too-much-to-throw-away beans. I love the eagerness with which I am offered a cup in the morning (or in the afternoon, during dinner, right before bed, immediately after I get out of a shower…).

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As a barista, I am around coffee more than I care to admit. The longer I’ve worked around coffee the less appealing it has become. (Less true the summer I worked at Cold Stone in high school.)  The less I drink it, the more my “good coffee” guard slips down–I appreciate a bottomless diner mug as much as our fancy, single source, perfectly calibrated brew. Although I’ve always loved the smell and taste, coffee has held less joy for me. Until Now. Until Aeropress. I’m fancy again.

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And nothing says “I do love a good cup of coffee!” like smoked cheese, amiright?! One of our favorite post-rehearsal habits is the long walk to Chelsea Market. I’m pretty good at battling the tourists and beelining to my favorite haunts, which right now means Buon Italia. Their dried pasta section elicited girlish giggles (from both of us) and the cheese section kept me enraptured for a good ten minutes (we also have them to thank for these fregola cuties). Although I couldn’t find the soft smoked ricotta I recently tried at BK Winery and have not stopped thinking about, the smoked scamorza was a dang good choice.

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So! In summary: pasta, good; (smoked) cheese, good; coffee, also good. Keep it simple, let the ingredients Be The Best They Can Be.

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Me: Look! I actually took a nice picture of all the lovely-ly arranged ingredients! Daniel: Wait, isn’t there supposed to be cheese in this? Isn’t that the POINT? Me: You’re concentrating on the wrong thing! And, uh, shit.

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I’ve located the cheese… can’t miss it now! (please appreciate my newby photo editing skills)

Simple Pasta with Smoked Scamorza and Tomatoes

sorta adapted from Bon Appetit 

¾ lb. pasta, more or less (12oz or so) (we used radiatore/organetti but any fun curvy shape would be good here)
4T olive oil
½ large onion, thinly sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes (11 oz), halved (or quartered if larger)
1 large clove garlic, minced
½ c vermouth (or white wine!)
¾ c fresh basil leaves, sliced, plus extra for garnish
1 t dried oregano
1 t dried parsley (we used a “Tuscan herb blend” because we were out)
scant ½ c kalamata olives, chopped
7 mini balls smoked scamorza or smoked mozzarella (or use fresh, non-smoked!), sliced (about ½ c once sliced)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook pasta according to package directions, erring on the side of al dente. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large ovenproof saute pan. Add onion and cook for about 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until it starts to brown. Add cherry tomatoes; cook for 3 minutes. Next add garlic; cook for two more minutes.

Add vermouth and give everything a good stir. Scrape up any browned onions or tomatoey bits. Next, add basil, oregano, parsley, and olives and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Taste sauce; season with s&p. Add cooked pasta to sauce and stir to coat evenly. Add half the scamorza and mix to incorporate. Top pasta with other half of scamorza and place in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until cheese gets melty.

Top with fresh basil, a drizzle of olive oil, and crack of black pepper.

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