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Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Sharing My Recipes, My Life, And The Food Tale Of Two Cities

A Ladies Luncheon At Lynn’s Home

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My very good friend Lynn asked me if I would have a cooking class/ luncheon at her home. Without hesitation, I said yes! Her home is located in the Historic district of Orlando. This was the perfect place for Lynn and her friends, Marian, Jean, Diane, Gloria, and Sandy to spend some quality time together. I thought it would be a great idea to put a menu together. Show the girls some tips, and cooking techniques that they could take home and use when they’re cooking for their families.

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Earlier in the week, Lynn and I met to iron out all the details. We came up with a plan and set it in motion. Gifts for the girls, a tablescape that would compliment the Italian theme, and then, of course, the menu. The day before the luncheon, I went shopping and found some great seasonal ingredients at the local farmers market in town. I wanted the centerpiece for the table to also echo a few of the ingredients I was using. A large rustic bowl filled with pink grapefruits, lemons, fennel fronds, and fresh bay leaves.

Menu:
Peach Bellinis
Cheese Board, Parmesan, Parmigiano- Reggiano, and Grana Padano
Fennel Salad With Grapefruit, Red Onion and Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese garnished with edible flowers
Kale And White Bean Soup
Homemade croutons
Eton Mess By Way Of Italy (menu category -desserts)
Peach And Fresh Mint Iced Tea

I set up a small cheese board filled with shards of different types of Parmesan cheeses. The saltiness of the cheeses paired really well with the cocktail I made. I chose to serve Peach Bellinis  Fresh peach puree mixed with Prosecco sparkling wine, garnished with a strawberry. A traditional cocktail that originated in Venice, Italy.

I went through the steps for each course step by step. The ladies were taking notes which made me feel pretty special. They asked great questions and I think they went away realizing that when you use fresh and seasonal ingredients, cooking can be fun as well as delicious. I want to say that these were some of the sweetest ladies and I hope that we’ll be able to get together again in the near future. Lynn, I can’t thank you enough for the opportunity to help you with this amazing luncheon.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time 35 to 40 minutes
Yields: 6 servings
Equipment: 2 6-quart Dutch ovens with lids

Recipe For Kale And Cannellini Bean Soup:
Know as Beans And Greens Soup
All ingredients divided evenly into two 6 quart heavy bottom pots

2 bunches of fresh kale, stems and center rib removed coarsely chopped
4 15-ounce cans of white Cannellini beans -drained and rinsed
4 tablespoons of olive oil
4 stalks of celery diced halved and coarsely chopped
2 large onions coarsely chopped
8 carrots peeled and 1/2 inch diced
4 cloves of minced garlic
2 teaspoons of grated fresh nutmeg
2 Fresno chilis seeded and minced
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 quarts of unsalted chicken stock
8 cups of water (amount of water may vary slightly)
2 2-inch pieces of Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds
2 tablespoons of Kosher salt (1 tablespoon per pot)
1 teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper (1/2 teaspoon per pot)
2 fresh bay leaves ( dried are fine)
2 teaspoons of freshly chopped rosemary leaves
grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
*E.V.O.O drizzle (drizzle on top as a finish to the soup)
Accompaniment: homemade croutons

Note: smoked sausage is an option to add to this soup (slice crosswise 1/4 inch thick pieces)

Directions:
Turn the burners to medium-high heat allowing the two heavy bottom pot to heat up. Remember that all the ingredients will be evenly divided into the two pots. Once the pots have come up to temperature, adjust the temperature to medium. Add in the olive oil, diced onions, minced Fresno chili, celery, diced carrots, and tomato paste. Stir all the ingredients together cook until vegetables start to soften, around 10 minutes. Make sure to season as you go by adding Kosher salt, black pepper to taste.

Add the minced garlic, bay leaves, and freshly chopped rosemary leaves continue to stir. About 3 to 5 minutes in, add in the unsalted chicken stock, cheese rinds. Slowly add in the half of the chopped kale leaves to each pot. Using a spoon, start to submerge the leaves into the liquid. Next, slowly add in the water and the rest of the chopped kale. This is the point is where you’ll be able to see if you have enough liquid, (refer to the pictures above) allowing 3 inches of space at the top of each pot.

The kale will wilt as it cooks, and most of the ingredients will also release their water. Not to worry, (cooking soup uncovered) as the soup comes up to a boil, water will also evaporate as the soup cooks. Now, the drained Cannellini beans. Next, it’s time to add the 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, and the freshly grated nutmeg to each pot. Stir all the ingredients together. Bring the soup up to a boil, reduce the temperature and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes or until the kale and carrots are tender. Once finished, cover the soup pots until ready to serve.

Serve in porcelain bowls with grated Parmesan cheese, croutons, and a drizzle of good *E.V.O.O.

The dessert you see in the pictures above, “Eton Mess By Way Of Italy”  and “Homemade Croutons” recipes can be found by clicking on the links below.

*E.V.O.O. is an acronym for Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

 

Eton Mess By Way Of Italy

 

Homemade Ciabatta Croutons

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Cabbage Soup

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Cabbage soup has to be one of my very favorites when it comes to food for the soul. I find, if your a fan of stuffed cabbage than you will love this soup. For this soup, I’m using an 8 quart stock pot. This size pot will hold enough liquid and cabbage needed for this recipe. I’m also using Savoy cabbage (green cabbage is fine as well) and a 90% lean ground sirloin which will make for a healthier and better tasting soup.

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Yields, 6 servings
Equipment: 8 quart stock pot
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40-45 minutes

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2-1/2 pounds ground sirloin
5 cups of chopped Savoy cabbage ( or green cabbage)
1 cup of diced onions
1 cup of diced carrots
2 bay leaves
2 cloves of minced garlic
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 tablespoons of Kosher salt
1 tablespoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup of quick cooking rice  (quick cooking rice in a bag)
2 quarts of unsalted chicken stock
2 cups of good tomato juice
Home-made croutons for garnish
Grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese for garnish

Directions:
The very first thing I do is to prep all the veggies that will be going into the soup so they will be ready for me when I need them. This includes the onions ,garlic, carrots, and cabbage.

So I just start out with a little olive oil in the bottom of the pot. You need that because the meat is very lean. On med high heat, I add the ground sirloin, breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon, and start the browning process.  To the ground sirloin, I add in the Kosher salt, black pepper, tomato paste, and some crushed red pepper flakes. Once the meat has browned completely, about 5-7 minutes,

I add in the diced onions and minced garlic. I cook those together letting the onions start to soften, another couple of minutes. Next, the diced carrots, stirring those through. I let all this cook together for another 5 minutes.

With the stove still on med- high heat, I add in the unsalted chicken stock. Once the stock is added, carefully, with my wooden spoon, scrape up any bits that may be stock to the bottom of the pot.  Lowering the heat to medium,  I slowly add in the chopped Savoy cabbage. Using the wooden spoon to push the cabbage down into the liquid.

As the Savoy cabbage softens and has all been submerged into the chicken stock, I add in a cup of quick cooking rice. All that is, is the rice you can buy and cook in the pouch. I just remove it from the pouch and add it right into the pot. I let all this simmer (adjust the heat, if needed, to a slow simmer) for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.

Finally, the very last ingredient I add is tomato juice. I add that right at the end, stirring it completely through. I then turn the heat off and cover the soup. Letting all those flavors mingle together for about 10 minutes or so before serving. Remove the bay leaves before serving.  I garnish with some home-made Ciabatta croutons and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. You can find my recipe for my homemade croutons very easily. Type, Ciabatta croutons into the “search bar” at the top of my home page.

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Italian Wedding Soup Two Ways


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The name Italian Wedding Soup stemmed from the combining of meat with pasta. Growing up, in my home, pasta was served separately from the meat dish.

This post will show you everything you need to know on how I make this soup. My secret ingredient, for the most flavorful meatballs, is basil pesto. Surprised!, don’t be, when you break down the ingredients in basil pesto, you’ll find that most of those ingredients are in my meatballs anyway.

I have done variations of my Italian Wedding Soup like, instead of small pasta, I’ve used mini cheese ravioli. It’s really delicious way to give an extra surprise to the dish.

I think whenever your making a recipe that calls for meatballs, it’s important that they are tender and full of flavor.

My basic recipe for meatballs  is always the same, whether using ground beef, pork, turkey, or chicken. The exceptions are when I make a Greek or Asian dish that call for meatballs. That’s a story for another time.

I’m going to show you two versions. One made  with a short cut pasta called Ditalini, the other with mini cheese ravioli.

What’s great about making extra is, you can freeze the soup for another time. First label and date the bags. Whenever I freeze a completed soup, I let it come to room temperature, transfer the soup into tight fitting zip lock bags. Release all the air possible, then close the bag. Lay the bag out onto a sheet pan in the freezer. Once frozen, remove the sheet pan and you can stack the bags of soup.

I’m also making a double batch of meatball to show both versions of my Italian Wedding Soup. This recipe yields 30 meatballs. If you’re going to use half of meatballs, let them come to room temperature. Next, place them in the frig for 30 minutes to chill. Label and date the zip lock freezer bag transfer them to the bag, releasing as much of the air as possible, close it up and place into the freezer.

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The one thing that’s important when making meatballs, is to mix all the flavoring first.  Once all the flavor ingredients are placed into a bowl, mix to combine. This mixture should have the consistency of wet sand.  Then I’ll add in the ground meat. I’ll also use a fork in order to combine the flavorings with the meat. This keeps the meat light and tender. Taking a fork to combine the ingredients, takes a few minutes longer but it’s well worth it. Your meatballs will be light and tender.

I line two  baking sheets with parchment paper and allow a little space between the meatballs for even cooking. I spray the tops with a light spray of non-stick cooking spray to help them brown evenly. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

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While the meatballs are cooking in the oven, I utilize this time for chopping all my veggies. To start, I have two heavy bottom soup pots on the stove set on medium heat. All my veggies ready to go. It’s the standard Mirepoix, onions celery, and carrots, along with some minced garlic. To each pot I’ve added some olive oil. I throw in the onions first to start them softening.

Once they’ve started to soften I add in all the other veggies. At this point I season with salt and pepper. I let everything sauté for about 5-7 minutes before adding in the low sodium chicken stock. I’m using chicken stock, instead of broth, for a deeper chicken flavor. I’ve  also kept the rind from the grated cheese that I added earlier into the meatballs. It’s great to throw them into soups and stews for depth of flavor. To both pots, I add in the chicken stock. I bring them up to a bubble, then reduce to a simmer.

Now it’s time the meatballs come out of the oven. Carefully, add half the meatballs (15) to each pot. Let this simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Next, add the pasta, mini Ravioli to one pot, and Ditalini to the other.

Give each pot a big stir. The pasta will start to float when it cooked, about 8-10 minutes. Lastly, I add one package of the thawed frozen spinach, that’s been squeezed really well of any excess water, to each pot and stir it around gently. Turn the heat off and cover until your ready to serve.

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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Baking Time: 375 degrees F. for meatballs 30-35 minutes
Cook Time: 50-60 minutes
Total Time: 1hour 20 minutes
Yields: 30 meatballs
Note: If only making one pot, use 1 1/2 pounds of ground chicken (15 meatballs) otherwise freeze the other 15 meatballs.

Ingredients: For Meatballs
3 pounds of ground chicken
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup of fresh basil pesto ( in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, next to the fresh pasta)
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
3 cloves of freshly grated garlic
2 tablespoons of Ketchup
5 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of fennel seeds
1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano- Reggiano)
2 cups of Italian bread crumbs
2 tablespoons of dried oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1-1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup of freshly chopped Italian parsley

Ingredients for soup:
Note: cut recipe in half, for one pot of soup,  with the exception of the pasta. Choose which pasta you want to use. Use only 1-1/2 pounds of ground chicken for 15 meatballs.
4 tablespoons olive oil ( 2 per pot)
2 cups of diced onions
2 cups of diced carrots
2 cups of diced celery
4 cloves of minced garlic
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
4 quarts plus 4 cups of low sodium chicken stock
2 cups of Ditalini pasta ( short cut tube shaped pasta in one pot)
1-24 ounce package of mini cheese ravioli ( in the other pot)
2 packages of thawed frozen spinach

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Start with a large bowl and add all the ingredients for the flavorings for the meatballs. Once everything is in the bowl mix well. You want the flavorings to have the consistency of wet sand. Next, add the ground meat to the bowl. Using a fork, mix the flavorings through the ground chicken. It may take a few minutes but your meatballs with be light and tender. Using a small ice cream scoop so meat mixture into your hand. This will ensure the meatballs will all be the size of golfballs.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Lay the meatballs on the baking sheet with space between each one. Lightly spray the top of the meatballs with non-stick cooking spray to ensure they will brown nicely. Place the meatballs in the oven.

While they are cooking, dice all the veggies and mince the garlic. On medium heat, prepare your pot(s) with the olive oil and crushed red pepper flakes. Add the diced onions in. Let them start to soften before adding in the rest of the veggies. Give all the veggies and garlic a big stir and add the Kosher salt and black pepper. Let sauté for 5-7 minutes. Next, add the liquid. If you have the cheese rind, leftover from grating the cheese, go ahead and throw that into your pot(s).  Bring the soup up to a boil then reduce it to a simmer.

At this point, the meatballs will be ready to come out of the oven. Add the meatballs to the pot(s) very carefully. Let them simmer on med-low for another 15 minutes. Now it’s time to add the pasta. Throw in your pasta of choice, or both if you’re making two pots like I have. Carefully give the pasta a big stir. Let this cook for another 8-10 minutes. Once the pasta floats to the top, it’s time to add in the drained thawed frozen spinach. Again, carefully give the spinach a good stir to incorporate it through the soup. Turn the heat off and cover until your ready to serve.

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Autumn Squash Soup

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This soup is so delicious and is a great way to ring in the fall season. I serve it with a drizzle of E.V.O.O,  homemade Ciabatta croutons, fresh chives, and roasted Pepitas, Mexican pumpkin seeds. I also make a few grilled Mozzarella cheese sandwiches for dunking. I’ts a nice way to let your family and guests customize their soup. There are a few steps in making this soup, but they are all really easy.

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The first step is to roast off the butternut squash. I have two squash because I need 6 heaping cups of diced squash. I peel the squash, clean out the seeds and cut them all into about 1-1/2 inch cubes, so they’ll roast evenly. I spread them out on sheet pans in 1 layer, drizzle olive oil, Kosher salt and black pepper on them. I toss them with my hands so they all get well coated. I place them into a preheated 425 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes. They just need to  caramelize and be fork tender.

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So while the butternut squash is in the oven I start on the base for my soup. I add garlic and a sweet onion that I’ve diced up into a food processor. I pulse those until they are pureed. Transfer the pureed onion and garlic to a bowl and get my soup pot ready. To the pot, on med heat, I add 2 tablespoons of olive oil along with ground cumin and ground chipotle powder. Once the oil becomes fragrant, I add the pureed onion mixture to the pot. I stir all this together so the onion mixture get nicely coated with the spices. While this sautes for a couple of minutes, I add in Kosher salt and brown sugar. I mix those spices to combine. At this point, I turn the heat down to warm while I take the squash out of the oven.

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You can see how the butternut squash has become nice and caramelized. In batches, I add the roasted squash to the food processor, then transfer it all to a bowl. Once it’s all been processed, I turn the heat, on the pot, back up to med and add the pureed butternut squash to the pot. I mix that through with the sauteed onions. Next, I add in pumpkin puree and stir that through.

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Now for the liquid, I add over a quart of low sodium chicken broth to the pot and stir this through. I bring the soup up to a very low boil, stirring continuously. Then turn the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Next, I add in a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream for some richness. I give that a big stir, then turn the heat off and cover to keep warm. Soup’s ready. While it’s staying nice and warm, I toast off some Pepitas on a sheet pan. I just spread them out evenly and place them into a preheated 350 degree oven for 5-7 minutes or until you can smell them. I also have some fresh chives that I finely minced and Ciabatta croutons. Recipe for croutons at http://lindalou amel.com/2015/11/02/homemade-ciabatta-croutons/

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Yields: 4-6 servings
Total Cook Time: 35-40 minutes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Equipment: Food Processor, sheet pans, 6 qt soup pot

Ingredients:
6 heaping cups of diced roasted butternut squash
1 cup of pureed onions (1-1/2 large diced onions)
2 cloves of pureed garlic
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground chipotle powder ( add more if you like more heat)
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1-15 ounce can pumpkin puree
6 cups of low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons of heavy cream
chives for garnish
roasted Pepitas for garnish
Ciabatta croutons (optional)
Mozzarella grilled cheese sandwiches (optional)

Directions:
First, clean and dice the butternut squash. Spread 3 cups of dice squash per sheet pan.  Season 1 tablespoon Kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of black pepper and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, per sheet pan. Toss everything together and roast off. in a preheated 425 degree oven, for 15-20 minutes or until fork tender and caramelized. While that’s roasting puree the diced onion and garlic. Next, pull the squash out of the oven and add to food processor in batches. Transfer the squash puree to a bowl. Have soup pot ready on med heat. Add the spices to the olive oil and and stir them through until fragrant. To the oil, add in the pureed onions and Kosher salt. Stir through until the onions pick up the flavor of the spices, a couple of minutes or so. Then add in the Kosher salt and brown sugar. Stir to combine. To that, add in the butternut squash puree. Combine the squash with the onions and then to that add the pumpkin puree and stir. Still on med heat, add the low sodium chicken broth stirring that through. Bring the soup up to a low boil then reduce the heat to low. Let simmer for 15 minutes.  Next, add in the heavy cream. Once more stir the cream to combine, turn the heat off, and cover to stay warm. Finally prepare the Pepitas and chopped chives. The soup, by itself, is gluten free.

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