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Summer Minestrone

It doesn’t matter whether it’s winter or summer, but for me, soup is always welcome at the table. And when you’ve got summer produce like zucchini, beans and corn at their freshest, why not make a minestrone soup and combine them all, adding some carrots and celery along the way? Don’t forget the pasta too, which in this case was some homemade pasta scraps I cut out and left to dry after a ravioli-making session a while ago. If I hadn’t used homemade pasta bits, I would have tossed in some store-bought ditalini or orzo pasta or maybe even elbow macaroni. I normally cook the pasta in a separate pot of water and add it to the soup when I’m doling it out into the bowl. Otherwise, if you’ve got leftover soup and have added too much pasta to start with, you’re likely to end up with hardly any broth. By the way, this soup is even better the second day, when it’s had more time for all the flavors to blend and the starch from the beans is released to make it a bit thicker.

There is no meat in this soup recipe, but feel free to use some chicken or beef broth if you like. But it’s got plenty of flavor without it, especially if you’ve added the corn cobs to the broth and a parmesan rind or two. Don’t forget to take them out before serving though, or someone could be in for a surprise! Also, the amounts and varieties of the vegetables are up to you. If you want more corn, add it. Or if you don’t like beans, leave them out. Mix and match with whatever suits your fancy.

By the way, I was so thrilled to post this soup using this bowl, which brought back memories of my mother and something she used to say quite often at the table when I was growing up.

For those of you who don’t speak Italian, here’s the translation: “Either eat this soup, or jump out the window.” Fortunately my mom was a great cook, hence we had no window jumpers in my family.

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Summer Minestrone
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 stalks of celery, minced
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1½ cups chopped green beans
  • 2 cups chopped zucchini
  • 8 cups water
  • a parmesan cheese rind
  • 1 cup pureed plum tomatoes
  • 1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can red or black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 ears of corn, stripped off the cob, but retain the cob to put in the pot
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • fresh basil, thyme and parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • ditalini, elbows or orzo pasta
  • parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top
Instructions
  1. Place the olive oil in a large pot, and sauté the onion, garlic and celery until soft but not browned.
  2. Add the carrots, green beans, zucchini, water, parmesan cheese rind and tomatoes.
  3. Add the salt, pepper and fresh and dried herbs.
  4. Cook everything together at a low simmer for 45 minutes, adding the corn cobs.
  5. Remove the corn cobs from the pot and add the beans and the corn kernels.
  6. Cook for another ½ hour.
  7. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in water in a separate pot.
  8. When the vegetables are cooked, add some of the pasta to the soup and serve in bowls.
  9. If you're not serving all the soup at once, wait to add the pasta, otherwise the pasta will become overcooked and mushy when you reheat it.
 

Veggie Ribbon and Ham Tart

 Here’s a tart that’s guaranteed to frustrate you. If you stay with it though, you’ll be rewarded with a tart that’s a visual stunner and tastes wonderful too. But don’t say I didn’t warn you when your pastry collapses, when you don’t have enough strips of veggies, or you run out of ham because you’re eating it  instead of tucking it into the tart shell. Can you hear the swear words across the screen? Yea, just sayin’….. 

The first glitch came with the puff pastry called for in the recipe. It said to line a springform pan and prebake it for 10 minutes. Well, good luck with that, as the buttery dough decides to slide down the sides of the pan.
Oh, I know what I’ll do.  I’ll use a tart pan instead, and drape the dough over the sides, then trim the edges flush with the border.
Oh really?
 Nah, the puff pastry did its thing and “puffed” up almost to the top of the pan. And yes, I pricked the hell out of it before it went into the oven — to no avail.
But I wasn’t going to let some bully of a puff pastry keep me from making this tart, darn it. So I moved to plan three and scratched the puff pastry idea, making a traditional tart pastry instead – and it worked. Take that, you ornery puff pastry!
OK, so the next cast of characters are these veggies – green and yellow zucchini, orange, yellow and red rainbow carrots.
You could try using a vegetable peeler to make the strips, but I used a mandoline instead.
I didn’t want any accidents, so I stopped cutting when the pieces got too close to the blade. Don’t waste them though. They’re perfectly fine for cooking as a side dish some other time.
You’ll need some ham for this too. I used a “French” ham that I find at my supermarket. It’s a very delicate flavor and the closest thing to prosciutto cotto I can find in the states. It’s also very delicious, which is why I couldn’t stop eating it out of hand, and ran out of it before I got to the end of the rolling.
OK, so what you do first is parboil the veggie strips for a couple of minutes, let them cool, then start rolling, beginning with a strip of one of the veggies. Alternate with the ham and continue rolling.
The parboiled strips of veggies will stick to each other, and so will the ham. This part is not hard, but time-consuming. And I didn’t cut enough of the veggie strips and had to go back to the mandoline and cut more – and parboil more.
The recipe called for a 6 inch diameter pan, but I thought that was too small to serve a group of people, so I used an 8-inch pan instead. It seemed as though I’d never get the spiral large enough, but I did – finally!
The next hurdle was transferring the spiral to the (pre-baked) tart shell. I used my hands and a large spatula, and while it was a little tricky, with some of the spiral getting dislodged, in the end I managed to put everything back in place and no one was the wiser.
This part is easy – pour the filling over the top and spread in between the cracks. If you roll your spiral a little looser than mine, you’ll have more space for the filling. (But warning – it will undoubtedly be harder to transfer the spiral to the tart shell.) Now, you’re practically home free – just bake in the oven.
And slice open to reveal a jewel of a tart that tastes wonderful, but that I will likely never make again. But maybe you’d like to give it a go. Maybe even using puff pastry (maybe you’re a masochist?)
If you do, please write me and let me know how it worked out. If you’re still speaking to me.

 

Veggie Ribbon and Ham Tart
adapted from
Dorian Cuisine
(the site begins in French but near the bottom the recipe is also in English. My changes are marked in red, below)
printable recipe here

 1 package of ham (use Italian ham) (I used about 1/2 cup)
1
zucchini (I used two) 

 1 yellow zucchini 
1 carrot (I used at least six, of varying colors)
1 egg 
60g full cream = ¼
c full(heavy) cream 

30g grated cheese = ½ c grated cheese 
1
roll puff pastry (I used a traditional tart pastry shell – my recipe for that is below)

salt and pepper

Start by cutting all the vegetables
into strips with a vegetable peeler.
Heat a large pot of salted water and
prepare a large bowl of cold water.
Put the vegetables in boiling water,
let ten seconds and then retract it with a slotted spoon and put them
in cold water to stop cooking, drain well and dry with paper towels.
Cut the ham slices in half lengthwise.
Start assembling spread four slices of
zucchini in length. The slices should overlap slightly in length.
You’ll get a long strip of zucchini.
Cover it with the yellow zucchini in
the same way and with the carrot.
Repeat, green zucchini, yellow
zucchini, carrot and ham this time.
Repeat two layers in the same manner.
In the end we arrive at six layers (I had many, many more “layers.”)
Cut a little too much if it exceeds the
width.
Roll the vegetables and ham, with four
hands is easier to obtain a large roll. Drop the roller to lay flat,
then you should get the same as the first picture.
Cut the puff pastry to the size of your
pan and let the precooked for 10 minutes at 180°C/350°F (HA! good luck with that).
Mix the egg, cream and cheese and pour
over the pastry. Place the vegetables and ham roll and press a
little. It should look like the second picture.
Bake for thirty minutes at 180°C/350°F.
 
Ciao Chow Linda’s Pastry Shell (to use if you’re skipping the puff pastry)
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup ice cold water, or more as needed
For the pastry, put everything except the cold water into a food processor. Pulse until it is the consistency of damp sand. Add the cold water and pulse a few more times, until the dough sticks together. Roll into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Let it rest in refrigerator a little (if you have time and patience, even a half-hour rest helps), then roll it out on a floured board and fit into a tart pan. Prick the bottom and sides of the pan with a fork. Refrigerate the tart pan for an hour, then bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Carrot Cake

Do you ever forget you’ve got carrots in your refrigerator and find yourself buying yet another bag of them at the supermarket? It happens to me more than I’d like to admit, and I was getting a bit tired of cooked carrots as a side dish to dinner. So I dusted off an old recipe I used in the 1970s when carrot cake emerged as a standard dessert in my repertoire. Although I loved it then, it was a bit heavy and weighed-down with ingredients, including crushed pineapple and shredded coconut. So I omitted those ingredients this time around and made this version instead, which I have to admit, I like even better. I hope you will too.

I baked this recipe in two 8″ x 8″ Pyrex glass pans. I dusted one of them with powdered sugar and we ate it right away. The other I put in the freezer, later thawed, and served with a buttercream frosting. You could also make this in a rectangular 8″ x 13″ pan, or in two 8″ round layer pans.

Carrot Cake

2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsps. vanilla
2 cups sifted flour
2 tsps. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
2 tsps baking soda
1 1/2 tsps. salt
1 pound of carrots, grated
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts

Grease and flour the pans and preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar, oil and eggs together until pale yellow. Add the vanilla. Sift the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt together and add to the wet ingredients. Grate the carrots, either with a food processor or by hand, and add them to the batter with the raisins and walnuts. Mix well.

Pour the batter into the pans and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the cake bounces back when lightly pressed. I also use a toothpick to test. Poke it into the center and if it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Dust with confectioner’s sugar when cool, or frost with a buttercream or cream cheese frosting.

Buttercream frosting:

2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4 tbspns. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
a few tablespoons of milk

Beat sugar, butter and vanilla together and add milk, a tablespoonful at a time, until the frosting is creamy and smooth. This makes enough for one of the cakes – double if making one large 9″ x 13″ rectangular cake.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

1/2 cup butter
1 8 ounce package cream cheese
2 – 4 tablespoons of milk
1 pound confectioner’s sugar

Mix butter and cream cheese with vanilla and gradually add the sugar. Add a little milk, one teaspoonful at a time, to thin it out. Beat until smooth. This is enough for a large 9″ x 13″ rectangular pan or for two 8″ square or round pans.