Lentil & Kielbasa Soup

I know I complained about the weather in my last post, and my ploy seems to have worked.  It’s now gloriously sunshine-y, and creeping up into the 70s.  Hello, DC that I love – all glorious three weeks before it becomes so hot and muggy you start walking around with a scarf and a fleece again – to protect yourself when you enter the arctic tundra that is DC office buildings in the summer. #firstworldproblems

Of course, the one downside to the beautiful change in seasons is the slow creep away from those hearty, soul-filling foods.  When my sister visited a few weeks ago (how surreal is this: the LAST time I will see her before I become a MOM), we spent almost a full day planning out a menu (clearly, we’re sisters, and daughters of our mom), and took full advantage of one of the last cold blasts of the winter season.  OK, now I’m really ready for summer.

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Lentil & Kielbasa Soup (an Ina Garten special)

  • 1/2 pound green lentils
  • olive oil
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 2 leeks, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt, pepper, red hot chili flakes
  • 8 stalks fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 4-6 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 10 cups chicken stock
  • a big squeeze tomato paste
  • 1/2 – 1 pound kielbasa
  • big splash red wine
  • to serve:
    • parmesan cheese
    • parsley
    • green onions
  1. Wash the lentils, and then, in a large bowl, cover them with boiling water.  Allow them to sit for about 15 minutes.  Drain.
  2. In a large pot over medium heat, heat olive oil and then saute onions.  After a minute or two, add the leeks, the garlic, salt, pepper, red hots, thyme and cumin, and cook for about 15-20 minutes.  Add celery and carrots; saute another 10 minutes.
  3. Add chicken stock, tomato paste, and drained lentils.  Cover and bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer (uncovered) for about an hour – until the lentils are completely cooked through.  Add kielbasa, red wine, and simmer until the kielbasa is hot.  Adjust seasonings – and serve with your choice of topping.

 

The Verdict:

As you can imagine, this soup gets even better when it sits overnight, soaking up all the goodness.  If it’s not spring/summer yet where you live – make this.  It will NOT disappoint.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sausage and Veggie Calzones

Tomorrow, Husband and I are jetting off on a very big vacation.  For me, vacation means eating, drinking, and eating some more.  Husband is a little more taken with hiking and outdoor things.

However.  This vacation is my kind of vacation.  Destination: London and Paris.  In other words, by this time tomorrow, I will be chowing SO MANY baguettes.  (OK, to be technical, by this time tomorrow I will be drinking wine courtesy of Virgin Airlines.  But I digress).

Of course, we had to practice our eating, so last night, I made these calzones.  Just to forewarn: this is quite an endeavor – almost two hours.  But this recipe makes so many that unless you’re a member of the Duggar clan (YIKES), you’ll have leftovers, which you can freeze.  Which we have, and will eat the second we get off our return flight to DC.

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Sausage and Veggie Calzones

  • 2 pounds premade pizza dough, brought to room temperature
  • olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped and divided in half
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • large handful fresh basil
  • 8-10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • about a pound (4 or so links) hot Italian sausage
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • shredded mozzarella cheese
  • about half a pre-washed bag of arugula
  1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat and add olive oil.  Add half of the diced onion, cook down a few minutes before adding garlic and tomato paste.  Cook down another few minutes and add tomato, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, and sugar.  Stir together and cook for about ten minutes.  Add basil and thyme and keep the sauce warm over low heat.
  2. As the sauce cooks, prepare your filling.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and the other half of your diced onion.  Cook down a few minutes and add bell pepper, salt, pepper and some crushed red pepper (after all, we like it spicy around here).  Cook for a few minutes before removing sausage from casings; make sure to break it up in the pan.  Cook until the meat is completely brown.
  3. Divide your (room temp!) dough into eight sections and roll each out on a lightly floured surface – so they’re about 6 inches across and as close to round as they’ll get.  Let’s be honest: this is the hardest step.  Because my kitchen is tiny, I found it helpful to layer the rolled out rounds on a plate between sheets of parchment paper.
  4. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and assemble the calzones: top each pizza dough round with a layer of sauce, sausage mixture, a sprinkling of mozzarella, and a small pinch of arugula.  Fold over and crimp the edges of the calzone together.
  5. Bake at 450 degrees F for 25 minutes and serve with an additional spoonful of sauce (and some salad, let’s keep it healthy!).  If you want to freeze any calzones – pull them out at the 15 minute mark, let them cool completely, and then wrap in aluminum foil before placing in a ziplock bag in your freezer.  To reheat, bake the frozen calzones at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes.

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The Verdict:

We love our calzones/stromboli around here – the Husband is a pro.  But as he carefully admitted last night, “these gave [his calzones] a run for his money, and that money is still running.”

PS: I won’t be posting for the next week or so.  There are just TOO MANY baguettes to chow!

Gorgonzola Sausage Burger

I was a “vegetarian” for about ten years (i.e., I focused only on consuming pasta and cheese, and found that adopting the mantle of “vegetarian” was helpful in my quest to avoid all foods that were not pasta and cheese).

Burgers put an end to that.

The year was 2002, the setting, a 4th of July BBQ at a high school friend’s house.  Two (vegetarian) friends and I, bowled over by the smell of the grill, steathily helped ourselves to a burger.  We made our way to the garage so no one could see us, and carefully passed the stolen burger between the three of us, sharing bites, until it was gone.  Incidentally, so was my vegetarianism.

Thirteen years later, I actually love vegetables and eat far more than pasta and cheese.  (Side note: YAY!) And at least once a summer, I get that BBQ smell wafting under my nose and I just know: tonight is burger night.  Thanks to Husband for always indulging me.

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Gorgonzola Sausage Burger

  • 1 pound high quality ground beef
  • optional but delicious: one hot Italian sausage link
  • big dash Worcestershire sauce
  • big handful crushed red pepper
  • salt, pepper
  • 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • cooking spray
  • to serve:
    • good buns, toasted
    • Sriracha mayo (i.e., one part Sriracha sauce to two parts mayonnaise, whipped together)
    • pickled onions and/or cucumbers – we used the basic method outlined here
    • sliced tomato
    • red onion
    • lettuce/arugula
    • avocado
    • potato chips!
  1. In a large bowl, mix your meat, Worcestershire, spices, onion and garlic together.  Form four large patties (don’t overwork the meat).  Note – the fattiness from the sausage and the ground beef will help to bind the patty together.  If not, add an egg and some breadcrumbs to help your cause!
  2. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray.  Add your patties – cooking two at a time, or so – and cook about four minutes per side.  I like to tent the pan with aluminum foil in order to help the middle cook through a bit.
  3. Prep your buns! Add Gorgonzola to the bottom of each bun – this will help it melt.  (You can also add to the top of the burger as it cooks, either way.)  Add the meat patty and your favorite toppings.  Obviously, don’t forget the chips.

The Verdict:

Dear Husband, who prepared these last night: these are even better than the garage burger. Now, if only we had a backyard grill…

Lobster Paella

Wedding season is glorious.

I love getting dressed up.  I love drinking champagne.  I love rocking out way too hard on the dance floor with the Husband.  I love the many, multiple reasons to come home to Boston and see my friends.

And I love going to bridal showers hosted by my mom.

A little over a year ago, my mom called me in a panic.  She’d offered to do the bridal shower for her BFF’s daughter, but now she didn’t know what that actually entailed.  Food? Decor? Drinks? She was supposed to figure out GAMES!?!  She asked me if it’d be appropriate to call in sick, citing European-ness.  (According to my mom the German, Europeans just don’t DO showers.)  She made her delicious Beef Bourgouignon, and needless to say, the shower was amazing.

Last night, my mom hosted a shower for another friend’s daughter.  As we cleaned up the kitchen, she turned to me and said, “this is just the most wonderful tradition.”

Agreed, Mom.  Made all the more wonderful by this lobster paella.  That’s right.  Lobster paella.

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Lobster Paella (Recipe adapted from Ina Garten)

  • olive oil
  • 2-3 chopped yellow onions
  • 2-3 red bell peppers, sliced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • salt & pepper (about a teaspoon each)
  • 1/3 cup Pernod or Ouzo
  • 1.5-2 pounds cooked lobster meat
  • 1 pound cooked shrimp
  • 1 pound kielbasa, sliced
  • 1 package frozen peas
  • for serving: parsley, lemon wedges
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Heat olive oil in large, ovenproof Dutch oven.  Add onions and cook over medium-low heat for 5-6 minutes.  Add bell peppers and cook an additional 5 minutes.  Lower heat, add minced garlic and cook another minute.  Stir in rice, chicken stock, saffron, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Cover pot and place it in the oven.
  3. Cook in the oven for about 12 minutes, remove, stir rice gently, and return to the oven to bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes (or until rice is fully cooked).
  4. Remove from oven and transfer back to the stove top.  Add Ouzo or Pernod and cook over medium heat until the liquid is absorbed.  Turn off the heat; add lobster, shrimp, kielbasa, and peas.  Cover and allow to steam through, about 10 minutes, so all of the protein heats through.  Sprinkle with lemon and/or parsley and serve hot.

IMG_3379[1]The Verdict:

That was one happy bride-to-be.  And for an extra bonus round, we sent guests home with peppermint patties from Chequessett Chocolate and felt mighty pleased with ourselves.  (We kept the leftovers for us!)