It’s been a rough week – mostly for people around me. I found myself retreating to the kitchen often to cook. Definitely helps clear my head and regroup. Soup season is in full swing as Autumn is fast approaching. We may actually blow off work tomorrow and head up to the mountains to see the colors.
Today I decided to make a big batch of one of my favorite soups. It did not disappoint. I ‘beefed’ it up because I had some ground beef that I needed to use up. I’ll do that again. Yum.
- 1 lb ground beef (or 1/2 ground beef, 1/2 spicy Italian sausage)
- 1/4 of a small onion, chopped
- 24 oz diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
- 2 cups loosely packed baby spinach, cleaned
- 8 oz sliced carrots (I use frozen)
- 1 cup green beans
- 1 cup water, as needed
- 2 tsp crushed garlic
- 1 tsp dried basil, crushed
- 1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (opt)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Grated Parmesan for garnish
- spinach chiffonade for garnish
In saucepan, brown ground beef and onions. In a blender, blend together spinach and tomatoes, until smooth*. Add to beef mixture, along with vegetables and spices. Bring to low boil, stirring frequently, reduce heat and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with Parmesan and spinach chiffonade. Makes 4 generous servings.
*Blending the spinach, tomatoes together gives you a nice hearty tomato base for the soup. You can add some additional spinach leaves at the end if you like, letting them get limp but not overcooked.
This is a great recipe and you can cook it on the grill or indoors in the oven. Add baked potatoes or rice and fresh greens from the garden for a nice summer meal. Serves 4.
Grilled Lemon Salmon:
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 4 – 6 oz skinless salmon fillets
Add ingredients to bag and refrigerate 1 hour or overnight. Grill on a clean, oiled grill or use a well oiled grilling pan, or broil in oven in a heavy skillet or broiler. Cook for 4 minutes on each side, or until fish flakes easily. Serve with relish.
Corn Pepper Relish:
- 1 cup cooked corn (or canned, drained)
- 4 green onions, chopped
- ½ green pepper chopped
- ½ red pepper chopped
- ½ yellow pepper chopped
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
- 1 tbsp chopped jalapeno
- salt & pepper to taste
- ½ tsp crushed garlic
Combine all ingredients and let marinate while salmon cooks. You can use the remaining peppers in a salad for your next dinner.
I look forward to making this dish every year when the little tomatoes come in strong. We have grape tomatoes this year instead of the cherry variety but they are much the same thing. I saw this recipe where the tomatoes were roasted in the oven before they were mixed with the usual herbs and garlic and went with that method today. I think it worked very well.
Things are not slowing down here. I put a bid in on a cute little Victorian house, only to face 15 other bids this past week. I did not realize house hunting was going to turn into a full-time job that feels like an episode of the Bachelor, where I go home without the rose each week. Between that and raising a rambunctious 10-month old Great Dane, the weeks are slipping by. Speaking of the Beast, I had to clean out the freezer to make room for his frozen apples halves (apples were on sale, so I stocked up) and his giant beef bones (again, on sale, so I stocked up and boiled a good two week supply). Deep in the freezer, behind the pumpkin, cranberries and leftovers, was a pint of ricotta.
Decided I needed to use it up, so I dug into the archives looking for my vegetarian meatball recipe. That became tonight’s featured recipe, and I pulled up the previous recipe exchange where it was featured and said, “hey, that looks good.” In other words, tonight is a repeat. Next week, though, I’m planning on sharing some fun recipes I’ve been playing with this week.
To start tonight, how about homemade ricotta? JeffreyW has made it and if you click here and he’ll take you step by step through the process.
He then puts his homemade ricotta to good use with Stuffed Shells, as pretty to look at as they are delicious. (recipe and photos here)
I have a great alternative to regular gnocchi, a lighter, easier version using ricotta cheese and a fire roasted sauce to make a simple, quick Baked Gnocchi. (recipe here).
A quick Skillet Lasagna (recipe here) is great for weeknights and a breeze to make.
And a yummy dessert from JeffreyW, a beautiful Cannoli recipe, pictured above and found here.
Finally, for the pet lovers, a Bixby update from the pup himself. If you click here, be prepared, he’s a Beast, standing at his full height on his hind legs.
What’s on your menu for the weekend? Anyone else house hunting? Have you started your gardens in earnest yet?
Now on to the featured recipe. These are very simple to make and are delicious. It’s a great vegetarian alternative for your pasta dishes. They’re light and once you get the technique down, you can play with the flavors and customize them to your palate.
Most of the recipes I looked at used Italian Breadcrumbs. But I really feel these need fresh breadcrumbs, so I’ve included instructions for making your own. I didn’t season mine because I didn’t want them to overpower the delicate flavors of the cheeses. Fresh breadcrumbs absorb flavors and moisture more than packaged ones, so I thought it gave the whole meatball a better, lighter texture. I added a bit of garlic powder (fresh garlic did not work with this, it was overpowering and a touch bitter), basil, oregano and fennel. The fennel really took it up a notch. My second round of these, I added a bit of red pepper flake.
Spinach and Ricotta Vegetarian Meatballs
- 1-1/2 to 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (instructions below)
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup grated Parmesan, asiago, romano cheese mix
- 1-1/2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
- 2 tsp fresh basil or 1/2 tsp dried basil, crushed
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder (not salt)
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- Salt and pepper
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, asiago, romano cheese
- Olive oil
Breadcrumbs: this took a full 1-lb loaf of day-old Italian or French bread. I bought it from the day-old rack for cheap. I tore it into small pieces, spread out on a baking sheet and dried it in a 200 degree F oven for about 30 minutes. I didn’t want them toasted or seasoned because I thought it would overpower the delicate flavors of these meatballs. Once they were dried, I ran them through the blender. I reserved 1/4 cup for rolling the balls in before cooking.
Meatballs: Mix together ricotta, grated cheeses, spinach and spices. Add the eggs and mix well. Then add the breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup at a time. You want it to come together to form soft balls, but you don’t want it to be dry. Once you can form a soft ball with some structure, you don’t need to add more breadcrumbs.
Scoop up a heaping tablespoon (I used my cookie dough scoop) and roll the mixture into balls.
Mix together 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup grated cheeses in a bowl and roll each meatball in the mixture, coating on all sides.
You can bake or pan fry these. I chose to pan fry, it used a bit of oil, but it gave them a nice flavor. Baking them would be my option if I was doubling the recipe.
To fry: heat olive oil in a skillet on medium and add the meatballs, leaving enough space between them to easily turn them. They are soft, so it’s a delicate process. The good news is, if you really want them round (instead of kind of flattened) you can reshape them after they come out of the pan. Turn them until they are golden brown on all sides.
To bake: place them on a well oiled baking sheet or use parchment paper. Brush them with a bit of oil if desired. Leave space around each one so they brown evenly and bake at 375 degrees F for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. You can turn them halfway through if desired.
That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend – TaMara