Tag Archives: tomatoes

Chicken Meatball Soup

It’s that time of year again … soup making time.

Not that I don’t make soups year round. It’s just that I kick it into high gear when the weather gets cooler.

This chicken meatball soup uses lean breast meat ground up in my food processor and a half package of chopped spinach. The result is delicious and filling.

Chicken Meatball  and Spinach Soup – serves 4-6

Meatballs – makes 16 meatballs (292 gm, divided into 16 x 18 gm portions)

210 gm chicken breast, ground
1 egg
3/4 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp several shakes of garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

For the Soup

3/4 cup orzo, tubettini, ditalini or other small pasta
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup carrots, peeled and sliced thinly
1 cup chopped spinach, frozen and thawed*

* Swiss chard was used in the original recipe that inspired this.

In a medium bowl, combine the ground chicken, bread crumbs, egg, Parmesan, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Mix well, then form into 1-inch (2 cm) meatballs. You should have 16-18 total.

In a large pot, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Sear the meatballs on all sides until golden brown, 4-5 minutes. Remove from the pot and set aside.

In the same pot, heat the remaining tbsp of oil. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally until tender, 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.

Add the chicken stock and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, add the pasta and meatballs. Cover and simmer for 7-8 minutes, until the pasta is tender.

Add the Swiss chard, cover, and cook for 2-3 minutes until the chard has wilted.

Add the Parmesan cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice.

Ladle into bowls and serve.

For One Pasta Duo

The website where I found the ‘for one’ cake recipes also has savoury dishes. Especially pasta dishes.

Like this Ham and Pea Alfredo for One … I made it with linguine

I improvised this Turkey Cutlet Parmigiana with a quick and easy marinara sauce and one of the cutlets from my freezer.

Turkey Cutlet Parmigiana for One

Turkey Cutlet Parmigiana for One

1 turkey cutlet
1/4 cup grated Mozzarella cheese
100 gm dry pasta, cooked according to package directions

Quick Marinara Sauce for One – enough to dress about 100 gm dried pasta

1 cup canned, diced tomatoes, with juice
1/2 tbsp butter or margarine
1/4-1/2 cup water, as needed
1/8 tsp minced onion
1/8 tsp dried oregano
pinch of garlic powder
salt to taste
fresh oregano (sprig) and 2-3 fresh basil leaves, torn (optional)
sugar, as needed

In a large saute pan, combine the tomatoes, butter, 1/4 cup water, onion, oregano and garlic. Bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer, cover the pan, and simmer for 10 minutes. Puree the tomato sauce.

Add the fresh herbs and a pinch or two of salt. Add more water if needed. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes. taste and add sugar and salt, as needed.

Add the cooked pasta and toss in the sauce.

Push the pasta to one side of the pan. Add the turkey cutlet, sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top and put the lid on the pan. When the cutlet has warmed through and the cheese has melted, transfer to a serving plate. Garnish with fresh herbs.

Sesame Semolina Bread and Soup (Two versions)

NOTE: The potato gnocchi soup below is a tomato based adaptation of the kale and sausage soup posted here.

After an indulgent last dim sum outing with my nephew, on Friday, I used the afternoon to make another bread that I had added to my ‘to do’ list, while I was flourless.

The recipe came from the King Arthur Flour web site and is called a “Sesame Semolina Lunetta”. I have NO idea where the term lunetta comes from … lunetta means ‘little moon’ in Italian but this S-shaped bread doesn’t fit. In French, lunette refers to ‘eyeglasses’ … I guess you can vaguely picture two circles of glass in the S-shape. Sometimes, names have no clear explanation.

The dough turned out very wet but I suspect that my measuring cup didn’t allow me to be precise enough. (Next time, I’d try using the weight option for ingredients. ) Since it was too wet to hand knead, and I didn’t want to dig out my stand mixer, I decided to use a ‘stretch and fold’ process (every 15 minutes for an hour, for a total of 5 S&F’s) letting it rest for a further 30 minutes. I shaped the dough into an 18 inch rope and then coiled it into the S-shape and let it proof until it got very puffy, about 50 minutes.

Since it was still such a wet dough, I increased the baking temp to 400 deg F, rather than the 350 deg F in the recipe and baked the loaf until it got golden brown, 35-40 min (NOTE: 37 1/2 min).

The crust was crispy and the crumb was relatively open. The taste was good and there was a faint scent of sesame from the toasted sesame seed oil used in place of olive oil.

To accompany the bread, I made a pot of kale, hot Italian sausage and potato gnocchi soup. For a change of pace, I divided half the soup and added whipping cream to one portion.

Creamy version served with sliced and toasted sesame semolina bread, spread with pesto and grilled long enough to melt the Parmesan cheese in the pesto.

Fast and Easy Duck Breast Ragu

By using leftover duck breast, from a duck roasted back in February, I cut down on some of the cooking and preparation time for this dish. And it ended up being a very economical meal, as one large duck breast made enough ragu for three servings.

Duck Breast Ragu

Duck Breast Ragu – serves 3

300 gm dried fettuccine or spaghetti, cooked according to package directions

NOTE: For a low/no-carb version, substitute well drained/squeezed spaghetti squash, zucchini noodles or cauli-rice for the pasta.

1 tbsp unsalted butter or olive oil
1 large leftover duck breast
1/2 cup (1 medium) onion, finely diced
1/2 cup (1 medium) carrot, finely diced
1/2 cup (1 stalk) celery, finely diced
1 cup crushed tomatoes*
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
1 dried bay leaf
1-2 fresh sage leaves, or 1 large dried sage leaf
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp apple cider vinegar**
2-3 cups of water, divided
salt and pepper to taste
~1 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

* About a cup of tomato products may be used in the ragu. ie. 2 large fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced or 1 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes with liquid, 1 cup marinara sauce or 1 cup of crushed tomatoes. For an extra hit of tomato, add a tablespoon of tomato paste as well.

** In place of 1/4 cup of white wine, I added the apple cider vinegar to the chicken stock

If your duck breast was frozen on the bone, remove it and cut the breast in half horizontally, to minimize the thickness of the breast, and reduce cooking time.

In a large saute pan, over medium-high heat, melt the butter and saute the onion, carrot, celery and garlic until the vegetables are softened and the onion is transparent. Add the crushed tomatoes (start with the tomato paste first, if using, and cook a couple of minutes to bring out the maximum flavour) and then add the chicken stock and apple cider vinegar scraping the bottom to free up any bits stuck to the pan.

Add the dried bay leaf, the sage leaves and the duck meat, including the bones that the breast was attached to for extra flavour.

 

Add another cup of water, or as much as is needed to cover the meat. Add about 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/8 tsp of ground black pepper. The amount of salt added depends on how salty your chicken stock was. Remember, the liquid will reduce so go easy on the salt. Bring the contents to a boil, cover and then reduce the heat so that the ragu mixture is just simmering. Simmer for one hour, checking after half an hour and then every 15 minutes to make sure that there’s still some liquid left. Stir to prevent sticking as the contents reduce. Add more water if need.

After one hour, test to see if the meat is tender enough to be shredded. If it is, remove to a shallow bowl, shred, and then return the meat to the saute pan. Discard the bones. (If there was any meat left on the breast bone and ribs, pick them off and return to the saute pan … or eat it. It’s the cook’s treat.) If not, simmer for another 10-15 min and check again, adding more water if needed.

NOTE: Bring a pot of water to the boil, season with a generous tablespoon of salt and cook your pasta, until it still has a bit of a bite to it (al dente). Drain, rinse with cold water, return to the pasta pot and cover.

Continue cooking the ragu, with the lid off, until it’s as thick as you like. Taste for salt and pepper level.

Add the reserved cooked pasta to the ragu, stir through and serve.

Garnish with a teaspoon of grated Parmesan cheese.

BBQ Pork Skillet Pasta

Leftover pulled pork in your freezer? There are SO many possible ways of using it up. Like this skillet pasta.

In this recipe, the pasta is cooked in the skillet in chicken broth, but, if you have leftover pasta, you can add it to your skillet and reduce the chicken broth used by at least half. An alternative to the pulled pork, is leftover rotisserie chicken.

BBQ Pork Skillet Pasta

BBQ Pork (or Chicken) Skillet Pasta – serves 2-3

1 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup diced onion (or 1 tbsp sauteed onion)
dash garlic powder
200 gms Scoobi Doo (cavatappi) or rotini uncooked pasta
1-1/4 cups canned dice tomatoes, with broth
2-2 1/4  cups chicken broth (and water, if needed)
1/2 cup bbq sauce
1 cup pulled pork or shredded rotisserie chicken
1 cup shredded cheddar  or Monterey Jack cheese
1 green onion, thinly sliced (for garnish)

Optional
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed

Heat olive oil in a large skillet that has a lid with it over medium heat. Saute the diced onion until tender.

Add the dry pasta, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, dash of garlic powder and bbq sauce to the skillet. Stir to combine and bring to a slight boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally until pasta is tender, about 15 minutes.

Sir in the shredded pork or rotisserie chicken.

Top the pasta with the shredded cheese and cover with the lid until the cheese melts, about 3 minutes.

Serve with a scattering of the green onion as garnish, if you have any.

It’s All Gravy … Tomato and Duck

My mom only made one kind of gravy.

It started with bacon fat.

About once a month, my dad would slice up slab bacon with the thick rind on it, like in “the old country”, for the two of them. It took forever to render down enough of the fat to get any bacon grease but the results were worth it. (My brother and I liked the regular kind of bacon – thin slices, plumped up with water so it didn’t have a lot of flavour – but it crisped up quickly and the drippings were SO tasty.)

After frying up a pound or so of the bacon in her old cast iron frying pan, my mom would drain off most of the fat, leaving a few tablespoons in the pan, and add about the same amount of flour. She’d whisk the flour into the fat and cook the mixture (roux) for a while. The flavouring was about half a small can of Unico brand tomato paste. And then she’d add water and cook it up until it got nice and thick.

A bit of salt, and, at the end … well, each of us would add some of that tomato sauce or gravy to a soup bowl and dip in chunks of Italian bread and a few strips of bacon for a simple but filling brunch washed down with a cup of hot coffee.

Since she never measured anything, sometimes there’d end up being a lot of smooth, tangy and tasty tomato gravy. And sometimes, it would be lumpy and the flavour would be just slightly flat. Still, I never remember there being any leftovers.

Weekend Brunch – I didn’t have any bacon to fry up but I boiled up a smoked picnic shoulder ham and sliced off some of the uneven pieces and served it with tomato gravy and slices of home made French baguette to dip into it.

Over the years, I’ve learned to make different kinds of gravy. Turkey, breakfast sausage, pork chop pan gravy and buttermilk gravy. Sometimes the flavour is just slightly flat, sometimes it’s not as smooth as I’d like especially if I’m in a hurry or distracted with other things.

Recently, I ran across a treasure in the freezer. A container of duck drippings and fat. I thawed it, lifted off the layer of hard duck fat on top, and guess-timated how much flour I’d need to add for my roux. I ended up with about a cup of duck juices, jellied and dark and flavourful. A bit of chicken stock to extend the contents and this was the result. A delicious bowl of duck gravy.

Basic Gravy – 2 tbsp oil/butter/fat, 2 tbsp flour and 2 cups of liquid/drippings and meat juices. It’s just that simple.

Tomato Gravy – 1 tbsp bacon fat, 1 tbsp flour, 1 tbsp tomato paste, 1 cup tomato juice, additional water as needed, salt and pepper to taste.

Beef Duo – Curry and Individual Pot Pies

NOTE: I made the curry and the duck fat pastry as directed by the recipes in the links … ok, I used water instead of vodka in the pastry cause I didn’t want to waste the vodka. The filling for the pot pies started with the recipe on Allrecipes but I made some changes as briefly noted below.

I made the mistake of freezing an entire tray (2.6 lbs) of stewing beef when I brought it home so I wanted to get creative when I cooked it.

I recently saw an intriguing recipe for Punjabi Beef and Spinach curry which I wanted to make. It’s not a pretty dish when done, but the combination of herbs and spices sounded like they’d make a flavourful dish. I browned all the beef and set aside 1 pound for the second dish, a pot pie.

Beef pot pies are a great way of stretching your meat to serve more people and getting some veggies into your diet at the same time. I chose to do individual pies so I could freeze away the extras for future meals without worrying about the filling oozing out and making a mess or drying out.

Inside the pot pie … I think I need to make a bit more gravy but just adding some more broth which would make the gravy thinner should solve the issue.

I used a beef pot pie recipe that I found on Allrecipes though I made some adjustments to the technique including making a roux based gravy, with the liquid used to simmer the beef (~1/2 cup), to which I added a rounded tablespoon of dried French onion soup mix and about a cup of chicken stock.

And, instead of a frozen pie crust, I made a flavourful pastry with some duck fat instead of using all butter.

Simple Spaghetti Sauce/ Sunday Gravy

A while ago I bought a big (100 fl oz) can of peeled, whole San Marzano tomatoes with the intention of making Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce with onion and butter. But you know what they say about ‘intentions’.

And then, a couple of days ago I was brainstorming an idea for a “Sunday sauce”, a pasta sauce that varies with the household making it. I was going to throw in some ground beef, a couple of pork chops, even a chicken breast, all of which transform a simple pasta sauce into a ‘gravy’. Then I realized that that pound of ground beef that I had in my freezer … wasn’t there after all. And I didn’t want to just use the chops and breast.

So I went to the market and ended up with five pounds of medium ground beef. At which point, I was faced with a variety of culinary possibilities. Three pounds were immediately portioned into freezer bags of one pound each and stored away for the future. I browned off the other two pounds and made a quick spicy beef burrito filling with half.

The second pound of cooked ground beef was drained well and frozen as well.

And now back to that can of tomatoes … I took out my dutch oven and sauteed a finely diced onion and a large clove of garlic slowly, over medium heat, in 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and 2 tbsp of unsalted butter until they were soft but not coloured at all. Then, I added about a teaspoon of dried basil (as I didn’t have any fresh), a half teaspoon of salt and a heaping teaspoon of sugar, and half the can of the tomatoes, crushed by hand and roughly seeded, along with their liquid. I had a bit of Parmesan cheese rind so I threw that in as well. After simmering the tomatoes, covered, for an hour …

… I pureed them with a hand blender and then simmered the sauce for another hour. Taste for seasoning. You might want to add another pinch or two of sugar if the sauce is too acidic.

The result was amazing.

Serve the sauce over pasta or polenta, as a dip for bread or pizza rolls/bites, dress a meatball sub or chicken parmigiana or use as an ingredient in a decadent pan of lasagna.

Pork Chops alla Pizzaiola

I’m not posting a recipe with amounts below but more of a guideline. For a more detailed recipe, try Giada or Rachel Ray.

Boneless or bone-in, pork chops make for a fast and tasty meal.

I got tired of my regular ways of cooking them – panfried with gravy or without, ‘shake and bake’, breaded (using Italian seasoned or panko breadcrumbs) and then fried or baked…

… so, with some leftover pizza sauce with mushrooms as an inspiration, I made this flavourful dish which can be served over pasta, mashed potatoes, polenta or rice. A comfort dish with some red pepper flakes to give it a bite. I didn’t have any wine to slosh into the sauce but if YOU do, go for it.

Pork Chops alla Pizzaiola

“Pork chops alla pizzaiola” includes the items that the wife of a pizza maker (pizzaiolo) would have available to her in her kitchen or her husband’s shop … tomatoes, olives, olive oil, dried red pepper flakes, anchovies, onions, garlic, capers and oregano. Maybe a bit of red wine from a jug sitting on a shelf.

As for the meat, a little goes a long way as is often necessary in a modest household … a thin cut sirloin steak, a piece of fish. Or, in this case, a couple of pork chops from a tray of various cuts purchased on sale in my local budget grocery store. If you don’t like olives or anchovies, leave them out, but if you DO, saute them in your olive oil along with your garlic until the anchovies melt and give an amazing subtle flavour to your sauce. The same with the capers. If you don’t have them, that’s fine, but if you DO, their salty flavour will add something special to your sauce.

Seeded, peeled and diced whole tomatoes, or halved cherry tomatoes, from your garden are great. Diced canned tomatoes are good too, but I was cooking for one and the leftover pizza sauce in my fridge was a perfect amount.

The cooking time depends on your meat. The steak and fish just need a quick sear (30 seconds on each side for the steak) on medium high heat in the hot oil, while the timing for your pork chops depends on their thickness. Use a large saute pan so your ingredients have room to move around. Remove the meat when it’s seared. Transfer it to a plate and cover to keep warm. Remember, you can finish cooking it in the sauce for as long as needed.

Saute your thinly sliced onions, finely minced garlic, anchovies, capers, finely minced olives, red pepper flakes and tomatoes, and then simmer covered, until the tomatoes have broken down into a wonderful sauce. You may need to add some water depending on how juicy your tomatoes end up being. Add your wine before adding the tomatoes so that it will help pick up the great browned bits from the pork chops and cook off.

Add your browned pork chops, and any liquid that has drained off while standing, to the sauce, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavour to permeate into the pork chops. Serve with whatever starch you like.

Odds and End Meals

When cooking for one, you end up with a lot of leftovers especially if, like me, you make big pots of some dishes. When my freezer fills up to a certain point, I stop cooking and start putting together the odds and ends and come up with meals.

I try not to have too many desserts in my freezer, cause I snack when I’m bored, so I give away as much as I can of the more successful results. But this means I get stuck with some things that aren’t suitable for gifting. Like a tray of peach crumble bars that were mostly crumble and very little peach. A while back, I bought a clamshell of mostly bruised and tasteless peaches that I had to throw away. So I ended up with a lot less fruit than I needed … which I didn’t realize until I was in the middle of baking with nothing else to add in to make up the shortage. A bit of apricot jam (ran out of ice cream) is making the bars a bit more palatable, at least.

Right now, I’m adding soup as often as I can to my meals. Biscuits or bread are a good filler.

Of course, I DO make new dishes. I snagged a double package of sausage filled tortellini on sale and cooked one up in a blush sauce. On its own, the pasta dish isn’t very filling, and I didn’t have any greens for salad in the house, so I served it with a savoury plate of polenta.

The rest of the polenta was patted out into a buttered 8″ by 8″ glass dish and refrigerated, prior to being fried up as a base for a jarred spaghetti-pesto sauce.

Chicken drumsticks are often found on sale. A bit of Italian seasoning sprinkled on top and unattended baking time and you’ve got the start of a great meal.

A bit of barbecue sauce and a different starch, and you’ve got a new meal.

Things get a bit tight just before payday or in the case of supply teachers, with no paycheques for 3 months, so a tuna macaroni salad with pasta and canned tuna bought on sale is filling and tasty too. I’d usually throw some diced celery into my salad but in this case, diced raw carrots made for a nice, crunchy bite and a bit of colour too.

Whenever I have coleslaw in the house, I’m tempted to make okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake. Another inexpensive and filling dish.