You don’t like fish? I make you tuna!

Italian-Americans celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. I don’t love fish. I especially dislike salmon. Tuna, on the other hand, is my favorite. I like to make Creamy Tuna Noodle Cazuela for a celebration or a weeknight meal. Splurge and buy the imported canned tuna from Spain or Italy. The jarred piquillo peppers add a twist from the traditional tuna casserole. This dish is something special.

1 lb. farfalle  (bow-tie) pasta

6 tsp. unsalted butter

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups whole milk, or 2% or even half-n-half (warmed)

1 ½ cups frozen baby peas

¾ cup piquillo peppers (6 ounces) Roasted red peppers can be substituted

½ cup Parmesan cheese ( or more!)

2 6-ounce cans of white tuna in oil, drained and flaked

salt and pepper

1 cup panko

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook the farfalle pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Add the onion and cook over high heat, stirring, until the onions are softened. Add the flour and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the milk and bring to a boil. Cook the sauce over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened. In case you were wondering, this is called a béchamel sauce. Fancy!

Once thickened, add the farfalle pasta, frozen baby peas, sliced piquillo peppers, Parmesan cheese and tuna. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a large baking dish, or individual gratin dishes.

In a small skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoon of butter. Add the panko and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute. Sprinkle the panko over the casserole and bake for about 20 minutes or until bubbling. Serve immediately.

Note: You can play around with the proportions. The original recipe is here. I like more tuna, so I added an additional can. I increased a few other things, especially the panko topping. Yum!

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Dreamy, creamy winter soup

 

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

 

Soups are a wonderful way of staying warm during the winter months. A bowl of piping hot soup nourishes the body and soul. This soup also happens to be nutritious! There is no cream. Creamy cannellini beans are used to give this soup a velvety texture. The beans also provide fiber and protein. You can make this soup in about 45 minutes including chopping and simmering. It also doesn’t make so much soup that you are eating it forever.

 

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 large head of broccoli, florets and tender parts of stems, chopped

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

15 ounce can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

½ cup milk

1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon powdered mustard

½ tsp. salt

 

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the onion and cook until tender, but not browned. Add the broccoli, broth and beans. Increase the heat to high and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes. You can test the broccoli by piercing it with a sharp knife. If it cuts into broccoli easily, it’s done!

If you are using a blender, let the soup cool for 15 minutes. Make sure you puree the soup in small batches. The hot ingredients in a blender can cause pressure to build up and the lid to explode off the blender. I used an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pan.

Heat soup in pan until gently bubbling. Lower the heat and stir in milk, ¾ cup of cheese, powdered mustard, and ½ tsp. salt. Cook until warmed through.

Taste and add more salt if needed. Garnish the soup bowls with the remaining cheese. Serve hot.

Here’s the original recipe from Ellie Krieger.

I still smell like onions….all in the name of Beef and Vegetable Soup.

 

 

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It’s dark; it’s cold; it’s soup season. Nothing like taking away a bone chilling cold with a steamy bowl of soup. I would prefer you consider my “recipe” as more of a guide. You can play around with it without many problems. You may need to add a little more of this or that, but it will be more delicious and nutritious than ANYTHING out of a can. I’ve played around with my mother’s recipe and a few I’ve found online. It’s not rocket science. As always, read my “recipe” through. I offer some nuggets of wisdom scattered throughout and, hopefully, a little humor……

You’re going to need a big pot unless you are going to reduce the “recipe.” I found I kept adding vegetables and wished I had used a larger pot. Keep in mind, the veggies do reduce as they cook. When you chop your vegetables remember they are going on a soup spoon. You don’t want to finely dice them or they will disappear when they are cooked. A nice rough chop is good. You’re not on Food Network, so don’t worry about the detail. It will still taste good if all you onions are not chopped the same exact size. Really! Pull out all the vegetables you want to put in your soup before you start cooking. You could easily forget things like, ahem, my friend did. I cut up my onions, carrots and celery and put them in cereal bowls. You don’t need fancy bowls to hold chopped vegetables. Save your money and buy a good knife! Find your bay leaves, salt, pepper…whatever, and have them in sight. Have a spoon large enough to stir your soup. In her youth, my friend may have had to use a teaspoon to stir her soup. You should also know how you’re going to store it. Do you have one large or several small containers? Mason jars of soup made a lovely gift for someone you hold dear. You also need to plan on time to let the soup cool before you refrigerate it. It’s good to plan ahead. If you have room, you can refrigerate it in your cooled, lidded pot.

Beef and Vegetable Soup

2 tsp. olive oil

2 lbs. boneless beef chuck roast, cut into ½ inch cubes

3 large carrots, peeled and chopped

2 large onions, rough chopped

3 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped

2 stocks celery, chopped

2 bay leaves

2 or 3 large potatoes, peeled and cut

1 small green cabbage or 1/2 large cabbage, chopped

2 tbsp. tomato paste

1 cup frozen corn

1 cup frozen peas

2  15 ounce cans of diced tomatoes (not petite diced)

1 15 ounce can of cannellini beans, rinsed

6 cups beef stock

salt and pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in your pan. When it shimmers, it’s ready! Add the cut beef. You can use “stew meat” that’s sold already cut. I prefer to buy a chuck roast and cut it. You know what you’re getting when you cut it yourself. Either way, your soup will be fabulous. I like to brown the meat in batches so it doesn’t steam. When it browns, the bits in your pot will add lots of flavor. Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper as it browns. Cook the beef so it’s no longer pink on the outside. It will continue to cook in the soup.

Add the onions, carrots and celery. Saute the onions until soft, about 5 minutes. I like to add a teaspoon of salt to help sweat the vegetables. Stir in the tomato paste.  I like to add the garlic after the holy trinity of cooking is soft. Garlic can get bitter if it’s cooked too long. Stir the garlic for about 30 seconds. Add the bay leaves, beef broth (or water), tomatoes (with juice), chopped cabbage, and potatoes. Cover the pot and bring it to a simmer. I made my own beef stock. It was my first time and it was delicious and nutritious, but it does take a lot of time. You can use water. Don’t use canned beef stock. It’s mainly salt. You may need to add more seasoning to water, but it’s a healthier option than canned broth, especially 6 cups of it. Remember, you are working this hard to eat healthier, not because you want your ankles to swell or smell like onions!

Simmer the beef and vegetable soup until the vegetables are tender. Plan about 45 minutes or so. Stir in the corn and peas. Simmer until soft. At this point you can add any leftover vegetables you have like cooked green beans, broccoli….whatever! If you want to add uncooked vegetables, add them at the first simmer, go right ahead. Add leeks, parsnip, sweet potatoes….whatever you like. Just make sure there is enough liquid in the pot to cook them.  If you have a spare parmesan rind, add that to the pot when it’s simmering. Magical!

This soups keeps beautifully. I think it tastes better the next day. You can keep adding to this soup for a few days, to make it last. My grandmothers could feed an army with very little, using this technique.

I like to make a roux to give it a little color and to thicken the soup. A roux is a technique using even amounts of flour and fat. I use a small pan and melt 2 tablespoons of butter. When it’s melted, add 2 tablespoons of flour. Stir, stir, stir. It will slowly darken and become thick like sand at low tide. It develops a nutty flavor as it cooks. Don’t walk away as it can quickly burn! Once it has darkened a little, you can stir it into your simmering soup. When you think it’s all mixed, stir it again! I may double the amount of roux next time for 6 cups of liquid, to thickened it more.  I like my roux to be dark, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be “blonde.” Let the soup simmer for 10 minutes so the roux cooks into the soup.

You are DONE!  Season to taste with salt and pepper when you serve.  To complete this meal, serve the soup with bread and butter. It’s hearty and filling for these cold, dark winter months.

Enjoy!

 

Note: You can reduce the volume of liquids, beef and vegetables if you are cooking for a few. Make sure you don’t reduce it so much that you don’t have leftovers. Leftovers are your lunch time reward!