White Bean and Spinach Soup with Leeks

White Bean and Spinach Soup with Leeks

White Bean and Spinach Soup with Leeks

I had high hopes for this weekend. I wanted to go into the city early on Saturday, buy a companion fish for my upside down catfish, buy some groceries at the Union Square Green Market, and rush home to cook a fabulous meal. What I wasn’t counting on was spending most of the weekend fighting off a cold/flu in bed.

After sleeping in bed for most of the weekend, by Sunday afternoon I was starting to gain back some of my strength. I didn’t want the whole weekend to be a wash so I wanted to cook something that would give me strength but that I could also feel accomplished cooking.

I recently had a really wonderful white bean soup at El Quijote restaurant in New York City. My family has been going there for years to celebrate birthdays, graduations, and any other special events that happen in our lives. I had the soup on my last visit and really enjoyed it. I made sure to add it on to my “must-make” list and found this to be a perfect opportunity to give it a try.

The Parmesan Rind... I knew this would come in handy...

The Parmesan Rind... I knew this would come in handy...

White Bean and Spinach Soup with Leeks – serves 4

36 ounces of Chicken Broth
1 cup of water
1 lb white beans
6 cloves of garlic, minced
4 leeks (bulbs), diced
½ white onion, diced
2 carrots, cut into ½ in. pieces
1 large potato, cubed into 1 in. pieces
1 parmesan cheese rind
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp rosemary
2 tbsp salt
½ tbsp pepper
  1. Heat water in a pot. Once the water is hot, turn the heat off, add the beans and let sit for one hour. Once the beans are done soaking, drain and rinse with water in a colander.
  2. 10 minutes before the beans are done soaking, add olive oil to the pot you will cook the soup in and turn on the heat to medium. After a few minutes add the leeks and onions and stir until softened, or about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the chicken broth, beans, cheese rind, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and rosemary to the pot. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 40-50 minutes or until the beans are almost fully cooked, stirring occassionally.
  4. Add carrots and potatoes to the soup and cook for another 15 minutes. Feel free to add ½ cup-1 cup of water to the soup if you feel it is necessary at this point.
  5. Add spinach and let wilt into the soup, about 5 minutes or so. Stir occassionally.
  6. Serve topped with freshly grated parmesan
The soup bubbling away

The soup bubbling away

The soup came out really great and it really helped to clear up my sinuses… at least for a little while. I also made enough to have for a lunch and dinner this week. It was really filling, had lots of fresh vegetables, and even though it took a long time to make, it was mostly a hands off meal.  Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to call this soup my “cure your cold and flu white bean soup”.

Update: While it wasn’t my complete cure all it really did help to clear up my sinuses. However, it was no match for my fever so I ended up staying home sick yesterday. The silver lining? I got to have the soup for dinner last night and after having sat for a day it was even more packed with flavor! So how am I feeling today? Not 100%, but I am posting this so that’s a good sign!

An Ode to Mac & Cheese

Mac & Cheese

Mac & Cheese

Oh, Mac & Cheese- how you delight me so!

Always there to comfort and warm me

Changing ever so slightly-

Always to satisfy my wishes and desires

You never falter-

Whether made from scratch or out of a box-

I will never tire of you, Mac & Cheese

And will enjoy our love affair

Nay, our journey as fateful soul mates

Forever and ever

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Now that I’ve got that out of my system I’ll just say it once more: I LOVE MACARONI AND CHEESE!  Everyone who knows me knows I make a mean Mac & Cheese. All the kiddies can tell you- my Kraft Mac & Cheese making abilities are beyond amazing. However, as I am constantly looking for ways to challenge myself gastronomically, I wanted to make sure I could make the real deal Mac & Cheese from scratch. I did it- and I did it well!
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Cheesy, Crunchy, Gooey, Perfect!

Cheesy, Crunchy, Gooey, Perfect!

The Perfect Cheesy, Crunchy, Gooey, Mac & Cheese: Serves 4
adapted from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook
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2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for casserole

2 slices white bread, crusts removed, cubed

1 3/4 cups milk

1/8 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for water

A pinch of freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese

2/3 cup (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyère or 1/2 cup of grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1/2 pound elbow macaroni
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1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly butter a casserole or gratin dish and set aside. Place the bread in a bowl. Melt 1/2 tablespoon butter. Pour the melted butter into the bowl with the bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside.

2. Warm the milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

3. While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time to keep the mixture smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 8 to 12 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, black pepper, 1 cup cheddar cheese, and 1/2 cups Gruyère (or 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano); set the sauce aside.

5. Cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook the macaroni about 2 to 3 minutes until it is underdone. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold water, and drain. Stir the macaroni into the sauce.

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish(es). Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup Gruyère (or 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano), and the breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until golden brown, about 25-30 minutes for an individual serving, 35-40 minutes for a casserole serving. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.


There is nothing more to say. Just go, print out this recipe, and indulge in this perfect Mac & Cheese.

US Open: Rain and Crepe’s

Chicken Cordon Bleu Crepe... cheesy!

Chicken Cordon Bleu Crepe... Cheesy!!!

I was lucky enough to get tickets to the U.S. Open for Friday’s match (Thanks Dad!). I’ve been a tennis fan for about 10 years and always look forward to September rolling around. My dad’s not the biggest tennis fan so Steve and I got really excited at the opportunity to go to the game. We looked at maps of the stadium, googled the fastest ways to get there, and looked up all the places to grab a snack while there. I’d read this article that really talked up the fare offered at the stadium so Steve and I were looking forward to this trip (and the food) for 2 weeks. Well, Friday was a wet mess that resulted in us sitting in the rain for 6+ hours and watching minus-zero tennis but, luckily for us, the food court was still open.

Lobster Roll... Creamy!

Lobster Roll... Creamy!!!

There were lots of choices so we took great care into deciding what to eat. We ultimately went with: A. the lobster roll (super creamy and decadent) and B. the cordon bleu crepe (really cheesy and filling). After a few more hours in the rain, and some time at the Smash Zone where Steve had lots of fun in the air balloon room, we wanted something sweet so went back to the crepe kiosk and got a banana and nutella crepe. It was a crepe kind of day- which is really amazing because I’ve never been so in love with crepes. I had a few in France and still couldn’t see what was so great about them. Just recently I bought some crepes at the supermarket and decided to give them another shot. I’d made a few but hadn’t been satisfied with the results. After coming home from the Open, I decided to give them another shot.

Caramel Apple and Nutella Crepe – 2 servings

1 apple- sliced thinly
4 tbsp nutella
1 crepe
2 tspn brown sugar
1 tbsp butter

1. Slice the apple thinly and set aside. Heat the butter over low heat in a skillet and, once melted, add the brown sugar and stir until the sugar melts into the butter.

2. Add the sliced apple into the skillet and cook on one side for 2 minutes. Carefully flip and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. Spread 2 tbsp of nutella on a crepe evenly and add the apples to one side. Fold in half, and then again in half. Sprinkle with confectionary sugar.

It turned out really well. It was probably the only crepe I’ve ever made that I really enjoyed. Granted, I didn’t make the crepe from scratch, but Sandra Lee wouldn’t be too upset about that.

Even though we were rained out from the Open on Friday, Steve and I returned Saturday to watch Nadal beat Gonzalez. Surprisingly, we didn’t have any more crepes- but we were tempted to. All in all, not a bad weekend… just a wet one!

Crispy Potato and Spinach Frittata

Crispy Potato and Spinach Frittata with Cheddar Cheese

Crispy Potato and Spinach Frittata with Cheddar Cheese

I wasn’t sure what to make for dinner but knew I wanted something quick and filling. I love breakfast for dinner and usually make myself an omelette or an egg in a basket as a quick fix. I was extra hungry yesterday and had a bag of spinach and a few potato’s that were almost on their way out. My quick fix? The Frittata!

I’ve always loved the idea of a frittata- fluffy on top and stuffed with all kinds of interesting ingredients- but was worried that I didn’t have the right types of pans to make one in the oven, the way frittata’s are normally made. Well, I found a few recipes that explained the science of making stove-top frittata’s so I decided to give it a shot.

I’ve got to say- it was fun and easy to make, looked so pretty on my plate, and was absolutely delicious and completely satisfying. The trick to making it on the stove is keeping the heat low and covering the frittata once all the ingredients are added. After about 7-9 minutes it’s ready to be transferred to a plate and sliced for eating.

Sliced Frittata

Sliced Frittata

Crispy Potato and Spinach Frittata – 4 servings

3 potatoes, shredded and drained well
5 eggs
1 bag of baby spinach
1/4 large Spanish onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of olive oil
A splash of cream
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Shred and draining the potatoes well. I drained them with lots of paper towels, but ideally, you would use a rice strainer.

2. On medium heat, heat up about a teaspoon of olive oil in a wide flat pan and throw the potatoes in to cook covered for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. I kicked the heat up for the last few minutes because I like crispy potatoes- but that’s just me.

3. While the potato’s are cooking, scramble 5 eggs in a bowl with a splash of cream. For a healthier version, you can use 3 egg white and 2 whole eggs and leave out the cream.

4. After the potatoes are cooked, throw in the onions and garlic to cook. Lower the heat and throw in the spinach to wilt covered, stirring occasionally.

5. Pour the scrambled eggs into the pan and move around the eggs a bit to distribute the ingredients evenly and to make sure the eggs cook evenly. Cook covered for 7-9 minutes.

6. Once the frittata is cooked throughout, slice a knife along the edge of the pan to ensure that it will slide out easily. Put a large plate on top of your pan (please use oven mitts for this part) and carefully flip the frittata on top on the plate. Top with any shredded cheese you like.

The finished Frittata - before cheese

The finished Frittata - before all the cheese.

It’s that simple! I was eating about 25 minutes after walking in the door. AND! I made enough so I could have leftover’s today for lunch! I was really pleased to see how easy it was to make- and am really excited to using all different kinds of ingredients to make even better Frittata’s!

In Appreciation of Bacon


The BLT

The BLT

Saturday was International Bacon Appreciation Day. I’m not a big bacon eater so I don’t usually understand peoples obsession with Bacon, but lately I’ve been having my own bacon-related obsession: BLT’s.

I don’t know what it is about the BLT. Each ingredient on its own is ok- nothing special- but put them all together and it’s like making a masterpiece. It’s perfect. So perfect in fact that, and I’m really ashamed to admit this, I’ve had 5 of them in the past 2 weeks!!! The one I made Saturday, in celebration of International Bacon Day, takes the cake. The trick to a perfect BLT is starting with really good ingredients. The rest is magic!

Brown Sugar Baked Bacon, Romaine Lettuce, and Heirloom Tomato BLT’s (2 Servings)

8 slices of bacon
Brown sugar
1 large heirloom tomato
4 romaine leaves
4 slices, sourdough bread
Mayonnaise

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment and lay a baking rack on top. Rub bacon slices with brown sugar on both sides and lay on baking rack. Bake for approx. 25-30 minutes.

2. Slice the tomato into 8 slices, wash the romaine, lightly salt and set aside. Slice the Sourdough loaf into 4 slices.

3. 10 minutes before the bacon is done, toast the slices of bread lightly on both sides. Remove the bacon from the oven. Spread an even layer of mayo on both slices of bread.

4. Place a slice of lettuce on the bread, then 2 slices of tomato, then 4 slices of bacon, then 2 more tomato slices, another slice of lettuce, and the final piece of bread.

Brown Sugar Baked Bacon!!!

Brown Sugar Baked Bacon!!!

Baking the Bacon makes it really crispy and most of the fat will drip down to the tray below. The brown sugar makes it really sweet and gooey. I used apple-wood smoked bacon but you can use any kind you like. All the individual great ingredients really come together in this sandwich to create something absolutely perfect.

Assembling the BLT

Assembling the BLT

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I was feeling under the weather when I got home today so I needed something warm and comforting to lift my spirits. I first had chicken tortilla soup at my aunt’s house. My aunt Liz is an amazing cook. Before I thought I ever wanted or even had the capacity to cook, I was influenced by my family members. They all seemed to be good at cooking one thing or another. All of them but Liz. Liz was pretty much good at cooking anything. So anytime Liz gets behind the stove I get excited- I know something good is coming soon.

This soup is no different. I’ve had a few different chicken tortilla soups but none of them compare to this one. It’s perfect- spicy, comforting, cheesy, crunchy- and even when over or under cooked it just becomes a different variety of itself. Its a really simple recipe, and takes about an hour to get from the stove to the plate. Here’s the recipe:

Chicken Tortilla Soup – 6-8 servings

2 (thin/medium) chicken breasts
8-9 cups water
2 tbsp sofrito (optional)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 can tomato sauce
1 tspn tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes w/ chiles
1 cup rice
1 small can black beans
3/4 cup of frozen corn
1/4 cup of shredded cheese (I love this with cheddar, jack, and pepper jack cheese)
Tortilla chips – your favorite kind

1. Start boiling the water in a large pot.

2. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, black beans,  corn,  olive oil and sofrito to the pot.I also add some salt and pepper to the pot around this time.

3. Once the water starts boiling, add the chicken breasts. From this point on, the soup should boil for about 30 minutes. Stir every 5-10 minutes.

4. The type of rice you use will dictate the time it will be added to the soup. If you are using instant or 10 minute rice, add the rice to the soup 20 minutes after you add the chicken. If you are using regular rice, add it to the soup when you add the chicken.Lower the heat slightly, to around medium. Keep stirring every 5-10 minutes.

5. 10 minutes before the soup is done, remove the chicken from the soup and shred using 2 forks to pull it apart. (If you’re using instant rice this is a good time to add the rice.) Once the chicken is all shredded add it back to the pot.

6. Around the 30 minute mark, the soup should start look thicker and the rice should be plump. Once the rice is cooked, shut the soup off and let stand for 5 minutes.

7. Serve the soup in bowls, and top the soup with tortilla chips and the shredded cheese.

That’s it! It’s really simple and really flavorful with very minimum amounts of work. This recipe is my go-to when I need something quick, yummy, and also when I haven’t taken any meat down from the freezer. I take down 2 chicken breasts when I get home from work, start the water and add the ingredients, and add the semi-frozen breasts to the pot. The chicken is always ready to be shredded after 20 minutes of boiling in the pot.

You can often find sofrito in the Goya section of the freezer isle. If you have the urge to make your own sofrito, I’ll be happy to share my grandmother’s recipe here. You don’t need to use the sofrito in this recipe, I just think it adds something special to the soup.

When I first started making this soup, I diced the chicken and added to the pot when the water started to boil. That’s another option if you don’t like shredding chicken, but I think the texture of the shredded chicken makes the soup a lot more comforting and full bodied. To mix it up, I sometimes like add cubes of ripe avocado or a dollop of sour cream in the middle. I’ve also made my own tortilla chips for the dish and used the store bought kind. It’s a really versatile soup that never gets old.

A bite of Chicken Tortilla Soup

A bite of Chicken Tortilla Soup

I recently made it for a very old friend of mine and she liked it so much that she asked for the recipe and made it for her family. That made me feel really great. I love cooking for myself, but it’s always a pleasure to cook for others and get positive feedback. I guess I know now how Liz must feel every time she cooks any of her dishes for us.

…Special…

Crab and Shrimp Pot Pie

Mmmmm..... Flaky

Mmmmm..... Flaky

Since my mom was coming to visit a few weeks ago I decided to show off my cooking skills by making a crab and shrimp pot pie. I got inspired by Ina Garten’s Lobster pot pie on Barefoot Contessa. I decided to make a more dollar conscious, but still equally seafood friendly, option. Here’s the link to Ina’s recipe:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/lobster-pot-pie-recipe/index.html

I had to make a few adjustments to the recipe to fit my tastes. I didn’t use fennel because, as hip as it is now to use fennel in everything, I hate licorice and haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet. So in place of fennel I used celery. I didn’t cut the celery too fine because I wanted to be able to bite into it. I also couldn’t find fish stock so I used vegetable stock.  I cut the recipe in half to serve 2 and didn’t include the Pernod (I’m sure Ina would not approve). I used lump crab and shrimp because it was easier to find (and less expensive) and threw it in the pan to cook for a minute or two before pouring in the ramekins.

Finally, I don’t have a mixer, (the space in my studio for an electronic mixer, or the god-given abilities to make baked goods) so I did the unthinkable… I used puff pastry. I know that Ina would be very disappointed (and that Sandra Lee wouldn’t understand why), but if it hadn’t turned out so well I would have been disappointed in myself too… but it was great!

I completely understand that home-made pastry in this recipe would have made a huge difference- instead of a flaky crust it would have been crumbly- but you’ve got to work with the hand you’re dealt. Also, seasoning the puff pastry with salt and pepper gave the pastry such a new twist. It all turned out better than great- it was filling without being too much, and it was a really great comfort food that was really simple to make.

Ultimately- I ended up making the pot pie for my boyfriend. The night I planned to make the pot pie for my mom,  she came over with visitors: My 2 little cousins! I made them my turkey meatballs. Later in the week when I sent the pics of the pot pie to my mom she said “Why didn’t you make that while I was there?”. I explained the situation and all she had to say was “mmm-hmmm”.

….. Maybe another time Mom…

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