Cooking…and drinking with wine

White wine that is, and if there is one recipe to make, it’s this soup! An infused broth of bay leaves, thyme, carrots and onions, vegetable broth and crisp white wine. I saw a couple of recipes on a White Wine Soup and combined what I liked to make this. I wasn’t sure how it would eventually taste but I can excitedly report that it was divine! Very elegant, a gorgeous blend of flavors and enticing aroma.  Using a good bottle of white wine, that is, one you like is key as the wine is the star ingredient. Simmered slowly, the alcohol evaporates leaving the rich full taste of the wine. The toasted baguette slice was heavenly floating on the soup and soaking up the goodness!
Having that bottle of wine open, I had to have a glass…..and come up with some other dishes! Shrimp and Fennel simmered in white wine, again the flavor was amazing and the fennel braised to a lightly caramelized softness. My third dish was quick and easy roasted rosemary skewered scallops in a lemony, garlic white wine sauce. 
 Every now and then I enjoy getting into my kitchen and creating new dishes. Okay, I’ll be honest, I am always in my kitchen and I am always preparing several new dishes. I get bored easily and rarely like to repeat, unless they are my classic Italian, family dishes. No doubt, I will repeat the White Wine Soup; possibly as my starter for Christmas dinner. I loved it that much!!
White Wine Soup
 Adapted from Saveur article clipped long ago!

1 medium carrot, finely chopped

3 cups vegetable broth

1 ¼ cups white wine, I used Kendal Jackson Reserve Chardonnay

1 bay leaf

2 sprigs thyme

¼ cup heavy cream

6 large egg yolks

Kosher salt and pepper for taste

Freshly grated nutmeg, about ¼ teaspoon

4 baguette slices

Herb butter or plain

In a medium large saucepan, saute the onion and carrot in olive oil until soft. Add the broth, wine, bay leaf and thyme and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and continue to cook for 15 – 20 minutes. Strain stock and return to the same pot over low heat. Discard solids. Add in ¼ cup cream. Whisk ½ cup of the hot stock in the egg yolks stirring quickly to avoid scrambling the yolks. Pour the yolk mixture into the saucepan and heat to serving temperature, but do not boil. Season the soup with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Meanwhile, toast baguette slices and butter each slice. Serve each bowl with a baguette topping. To make ahead, gently rewarm soup and top with baguette before serving.

Shrimp and Fennel in a Wine Sauce
Adapted from Trattoria cookbook
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
 1 tablespoon butter





1 large fennel bulb, cut into thin slices, leaving leaves attached to the core

¾ cup white wine

¼ cup chicken broth or vegetable broth

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 bay leaf

1-2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 lb wild caught shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 freshly squeezed lemon

Freshly chopped parsley, small handful

Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet. Add in fennel and onions and saute 2 -3 minutes. Add in white wine, bay leaf, garlic and some salt and pepper. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Continue to simmer uncovered until fennel is tender but still al dente, about 7 minutes. Remove the fennel. Add in the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes. Return the fennel, add in lemon juice and fresh parsley. Serve at once.

Roasted Fennel Soup with dried cranberries and chopped hazelnuts

This soup is for my cousin Diane who remembers our families sitting around after holiday meals with a platter of fennel and assorted whole nuts.  It’s a memory we share, but when presented to guests outside of our family, anise does not seem to be received very well.  Fennel is a vegetable, also known as anise, as our family would refer to it.  It has a sweet and mild licorice flavor and is known, at least to most Italians as a digestive for after dinner.   Eaten raw it has a crisp and slightly sharper flavor than celery along with the mild licorice taste.  When raw I do like to drizzle on a bit of lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper or present it with an olive oil/lemon juice dipping bowl. 

Fennel bulbs are light green with feathery, leafy tops.  Purchase bulbs that are smooth and firm with a vibrant green color. Store fresh fennel in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag. Do not wash fresh fennel until you are ready to use it. Then rinse it well with cold water. Fresh fennel can last for up to 8 days when properly stored and refrigerated. When cooking with fresh fennel, cut off the tough stem at the base of the bulb before slicing or chopping. Most recipes for fresh fennel use the bulb for cooking and not the feathery, leafy tops. When you cut off the tops, save them as a garnish. You can chop them up and sprinkle over soup, salads, or fish.  

When cooked the flavor will become sweeter and milder. And in this soup, Diane, your guests will not detect that strong anise flavor.  The fennel is roasted with sweet onions and garlic, then simmered in vegetable broth.  Pureed smooth, the taste is pleasantly earthy, similar to a creamier version of onion soup.  Served with a side of dried cranberries and chopped hazelnuts to sprinkle on the soup, a gourmet dish has been created with our secret ingredient!  Oh, yes, I remember John does not like onions, and he too, should not be able to detect them!!

Roasted Fennel Soup with dried cranberries and chopped hazelnuts

For Roasting:

2 large fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut into wedges

1 large garlic bulb, top cut to expose bulbs

2 large onions, cut into quarters

1 large apple, cut into half,  peeled, seeds removed

1 tablespoon dried oregano

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and pepper

 For Soup:

Roasted veggies from above

4 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

 For Garnish:

¼ cup chopped dried cranberries

¼ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

1 teaspoon hazelnut oil (optional)

 Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Combine fennel, onions, apple, oil, oregano and salt and pepper on large baking sheet.  Mix to coat veggies evenly and layer on sheet.  Place garlic bulb cut side down.  Roast approximately 40 minutes, stirring once halfway through.

 Peel garlic from outer skin and place all veggies into large stock pot.  Add stock, bring to boil and reduce to simmer for about 35 minutes to marry all flavors.

 Puree all veggies and stock in batches in a blender very carefully.  Return to stock pot and add teaspoon of cider vinegar.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.  (Soup can be made 1 day ahead at this point and gently rewarmed.)  When ready to serve, garnish with cranberries, hazelnuts and a drizzle of oil.

Roasted Pumpkin-Apple Soup and Roasted Pear Salad

I am on Day 4 of my wellness cleanse and I truly feel great!  I normally eat fairly healthy so through the elimination of either the gluten or dairy or maybe both, my body feels lighter and I seem to have more energy and alertness.

Planning meals does take some thought.  There is an abundance of allowed food, however, pulling it all together to create a filling, appetizing meal can be tricky as key ingredients such as flour, dairy – eggs, milk, cream cannot be used.  Of course, there are substitutes that can be used like almond milk, gluten-free flours and egg replacements.  Again, it takes some testing and time to develop dishes I will enjoy and feel satisfied.

Recipes online and in books are certainly not lacking.  Prepared frozen gluten-free foods are also readily available.  At this beginning stage though I am more inclined to prepare my own meals using basic ingredients.

The following is my menu through today, Day 4.  I have not felt hungry or any cravings for missing foods.  In fact, I look forward to planning and preparing my meals.  I have lots of ideas in mind but so far I have decided on my meals as the day approaches.

Day 1, posted previously

Day 2:  Breakfast:  Oatmeal with pumpkin puree, cranraisins, walnuts and almond milk.  Lunch: Leftover Quinoa Pasta with Carmelized Onions, Cabbage and Walnuts.  Dinner:  Roasted Veggie Quesadilla and sauteed cauliflower with onions.  For the Quesadilla I used a brown rice tortilla, hummus replacing cheese for the ‘glue’ and roasted slices of zucchini and red and yellow peppers.

Day 3:  Breakfast:  Gluten free waffles, pumpkin almond butter and agave drizzle.  Lunch:  Large chopped salad.  Dinner – Roasted Pumpkin-Apple Soup and Roasted Pear Salad, recipe below.

Day 4:  Breakfast:  Gluten free waffles, pumpkin almond butter and agave drizzle.  Lunch:  Leftover Pumpkin-Apple Soup and freshly made Roasted Pear Salad.  Dinner:   Brown Rice Pasta with Spicy Eggplant Sauce.

Roasted Pumpkin-Apple Soup

1 small cooking pumpkin, about 2 pounds, cut, into cubes or use 1 15 oz can pumpkin puree

1 large apple, seeded and cut into wedges

1 large onion, cut into quarters

1 large yam, cut into cubes

1 large garlic bulb, slice off top, drizzle with oil, salt & pepper and wrapped in foil

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

4 to 6 cups vegetable broth

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ginger

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon Creole seasoning or Cayenne (depending on your level of spiciness)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place cut pumpkin, apple, onion, and yam on large baking sheet.  Drizzle on oil, salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Place foil wrapped garlic bulb and baking sheet in oven and roast until fork tender and lightly browned, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Place the roasted mix into a blender and add vegetable stock to cover.  Blend until very smooth.  For a very smooth soup, strain through a fine strainer into a large sauce pan.  Add remaining vegetable stock and all seasonings and heat soup about 15 minutes.  Taste to correct seasoning to your preference.

The soup can be made a day ahead.  Reheat over medium heat.  Serve with toasted corn tortilla as mock crutons.


Roasted Pear Salad

For the salad, I roasted one pear (per 2 servings) while roasting the veggies for the soup above, sprinkling the pear with oil and kosher salt.    I topped the roasted pears over a salad of mixed greens, chopped cucumbers, green olives, cranraisins and walnuts.  For the dressing, I prepared a 2:1 olive oil to Pear Infused Balsamic Vinegar (or white balsalmic vinegar), Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and dried oregano and thyme.

Tortilla Soup with Roasted Chicken

I have been pretty much roasting chicken every week.  I find that by doing so, I have the makings for a healthy lunch and easy protein for my son to consume.  The smell of roasted chicken in my kitchen is so wonderful.  Like the rotisserie chicken that is so enticing in the grocery store, especially when I run in after work and so hungry!  I can honestly say tho, that I have never bought one.   I would actually feel guilty.  I probably would have more time in my life if I didn’t feel the need to make everything homemade!  Maybe someday…maybe not…

And it really is so very easy.  I prefer to purchase chicken cut up in pieces.  I preheat the oven to 425 degrees, line a large baking sheet with foil and top it with a rack.  The foil is to make clean up easier and the rack is to allow the chicken to crisp up all over.  I spray the rack with nonstick spray and then place the chicken parts on top.  (I cut off excess fat, but leave the skin on.)  I drizzle oil on top and sprinkle on salt, pepper, dried herbs (oregano, thyme), creole spices, really whatever I feel at the moment.  I pop it in the oven for 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees and continue to roast another 30 minutes.  The chicken comes out juicy, nicely browned and crispy. 

This week, making soup was definitely on my mind and I wanted something a bit more exciting than my traditional chicken soup.  Tortilla  Soup is basically a chicken soup with a lot of flavor from corn, tomatoes and the distant taste of cumin.  It can be made spicy, which my son and I love, but not my daughter.  Toppings like avocado, grated cheddar, crispy baked tortilla strips, sour cream, chopped green onion make it a fun entre allowing everyone to suit their own tastes.

Tortilla Soup

Adapted from Wolfgang Puck, “Pizza, Pasta & More!”

2 ears fresh corn, husks removed
4 or 5 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 small onion, peeled, trimmed and quartered
1 small red pepper or jalapeno, trimmed and seeded
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 corn tortillas, cut into 1 inch squares
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 to 3 teaspoons ground cumin
2 quarts chicken stock, homemade or store-bought
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For Garnish:
2 corn tortillas
1 ripe avocado
1-2 large chicken breast, cooked, boned and skinned
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Using a large knife, carefully cut the kernels off the corn cobs and set aside, reserving the cobs.

Using a food processor, coarsely chop the garlic, onion, pepper and corn kernels.  Reserve.

In a large soup pot, heat the oil.  Add the squares of tortillas and cook over low heat until they are slightly crisp.  Stir in the chopped vegetables and simmer just until the vegetables are coated with the oil.  Do not brown.

Add the tomatoes, the tomato paste and 2 teaspoons of the cumin and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes to maximize the flavor.  Slowly pour in the stock, add the corn cobs and cook over low heat until the soup is reduced by one-third, about 25-30 minutes.

Discard the corn cobs and puree the soup in batches in a blender until smooth.  For a smoother consistency, the soup can be passed through a fine strainer.  Return to a clean pot and season with salt pepper and additional cumin to taste.

Prepare the Garnish:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the tortillas into thin strips and arrange on a baking tray.  Bake until the strips are crisp about 10-15 minutes.  Peel and dice the avocado.  Cut the chicken into strips or bite size chunks.

To serve, add the chicken to the soup and ladle into warm soup bowls.  Serve immediately with garnishes for individual topping.

Cauliflower Soup…hot or cold

I previously posted “semi-homemade” tomato soup on behalf of my daughter’s love for creamy soup and lack of time in her busy school, sorority and work life.   Or is it really ranked; social, sorority, school, work??  Are you reading this Gina??  p.s.  love you lots!

The other day, Randy, aka Forever Young Avocado Pie, brought me a copy of Cuisine at Home, October 2010 issue, and a fabulous, gorgeous table top Italian book!  More on that one in another post!  Cuisine at Home had a few recipes for creamy soups pretty much how I have made mine in the past.  Having a beautiful head of cauliflower on hand and freshly made chicken stock, creamy Cauliflower Soup became the entre for dinner! 

The method can be used for other veggies; carrot, broccoli, potato, butternut squash and tweaked by the seasonings used to complement the particular veggie.  On hot summer days, a bowl of chilled creamy soup is perfect!

Cauliflower Soup

2 tablespoons chopped pancetta
1/4 medium onion chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
6 – 7 cups cauliflower florets coarsely chopped (about 1 large head)
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup whole milk (or use 1/4 cup heavy cream and increase chicken stock by 1/2 cup)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 oz gorgonzola crumbled (optional)

In large saucepan saute pancetta over medium heat until crisp.  Remove pancetta and reserve.  Pour off all be 1 tablespoon of drippings in pan and return to medium heat.  Add onion and cook until softened and lightly browned.  Add garlic and very briefly stir to soften.  Add cauliflower, salt, cayenne pepper and chicken stock.  Bring to boil, then reduce and simmer partial covered until cauliflower pieces are tender, about 25-30 minutes.  Puree the soup in batches in a blender or use an immersion blender in the pot.  

Return soup to the pot and stir in the cream and chopped fresh parsley and thyme to combine well.  Do not allow to boil.  If  serving hot, ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with crumbled pancetta and gorgonzola.   For a cold soup, cool the soup and refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours.  Taste soup for seasonings as chilled soup may need extra to intensify the flavor.

Note:  For a richer, thicker soup, a diced potato can be added with the cauliflower and pureed all together.

“Semi-homemade” Tomato Soup


My daughter loves creamy soups…. bisque, roasted tomato, cheesey brocolli.  So I began thinking about how I could give her a healthier version while also being quick and easy for her to make.  As I was grocery shopping with her I noticed her list included jarred pasta sauce.  Really??  She grew up eating my homemade sauce…so how could she eat this!  I read the ingredients..actually not bad…tomatoes, onions, roasted garlic, sugar, salt oregano, sunflower oil, parsley, pepper.  

The sauce she bought was Barilla – Roasted Garlic.   While it did not taste like my sauce…simmering all day, lovingly stirred…the ingredients could be used as a base for her soup!  Similar to how I make creamy soup from roasted veggies and whole tomatoes.  So, we blended it up and added ingredients she would like in a soup, and before we knew it…creamy soup as good as homemade!  On a second shopping trip she grabbed a Classico Sun-Dried Tomato Alfredo.   The cream, egg yolk, parmesan cheese and butter take the fat content up, but I have to believe that it will be a better choice for her than eating out and not knowing exactly what is in the soup.  Most importantly… they both taste really, really good! 

Tomato Soup with Roasted Garlic

1 jar Marinara of your choice (check ingredients to ensure no added sugars or fake food!)  *
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon of Pesto (optional) or use 1/4 cup of fresh basil or 1 tablespoon of dried
1 small jar of roasted red peppers (optional – good for creating a Tomato Roasted Red Pepper Soup)
1/4 cup heavy cream
salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process well.  Pour into a saucepan and heat.   Depending on how you like the thickness of your soup you can add more or less chicken stock as well as the cream.   Garnish with a dollop of goat cheese, parmesan shavings or gorgonzola.  

* If the marinara sauce does not contain roasted garlic or to intensify the garlic taste, add 1 bulb of roasted garlic.

Variation:  Sun-Dried Tomato Alfredo

Basically we just added chicken stock and pesto to this soup as it had all the ingredients she wanted.  I prefer a spicy soup; therefore, I would add crushed red pepper.