The Politics of Minestrone

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It has been mentioned and implied to me in passing that perhaps a food blog is not a place for politics. I say food is one of the most political things in the world based on the abundance or lack of,  trade agreements between countries, crops and the ability to farm or not farm,  all affected by conflicts, weather, whims and cultures. Every food we eat or drink is influenced by governments here and abroad. Food is something that many have too much of and many more have too little of. If that is not political I am not sure what is. How do you feel about this?

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The greens in this soup recipe were picked and packaged by workers in Southern California, the canned beans and tomatoes, the Parmigiano came from Italy as well as the word “minestrone” meaning ” a thick vegetable soup with or without pasta”.  The white bowl in my photo was made in Portugal, the pepper grinder from France and the salt pot from a ceramicist in Nashville….oh yeah, the sea salt from England. The quality and safety of each is determined by rules and laws set down by local and federal governments. Trade agreements allow us access to these items.. All directly depend on the politics of where they come from and where they are going to end up. Such is the “politics of minestrone”.

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The rinds of Parmigiano Reggiano add a unique flavor to a pot of minestrone. So don’t toss them when you have grated down to the rind, save for soup.

Hearty, easy and comforting. We can all use a little comfort…no?

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This is an interesting website with lots of interesting videos about food that might make you think about all kinds of food and life in some new ways.

March Minestrone Soup

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Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped small
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped small
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 large bunch of Swiss Chard, trimmed & rough chopped
  • 1/2 head of Savoy Cabbage, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 large handfuls of fresh baby Spinach leaves
  • One 28oz. can of whole tomatoes with juice
  • 1 quart low-fat chicken broth
  • 2 quarts of water
  • 2 pieces of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese rind
  • 2 cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. In a stock pot heat olive oil and add chopped onion and celery and saute until softened, about 8-10 minutes.  Stir in smashed garlic and cook another 5 minutes.
  2. To pot add tomatoes with juice, breaking up whole tomatoes as you add them to the pot with your hands. Stir in the chicken broth and water.
  3. Toss in the Parmigiano rind and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add the cut up cabbage and spinach leaves and cook on low for about 30 minutes.
  5. Add chard leaves and beans and cook another 15 minutes on a low simmer.
  6. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt. Discard Parmigiano rinds before serving.

Note: This soup is often served with a cooked, small pasta such as mini shells or ditalini. Trying to cut calories wherever I can we just ate as is.

Teresa Blackburn      www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com   http://www.foodonfifth.com

Cara Cara and Blood Orange Salad E.A.T #23

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Blood Orange, Cara Cara, Satsuma, Tangerine, Navel, Little Cuties, Mandarins by any other name would still taste as sweet or tangy, fresh or juicy.  It is February and peak season for all manner of citrus. Some are easy to peel, some are seedless, some have smooth skins and some are more pithy.

My favorite winter centerpiece is a simple bowl of beautiful oranges. They glow in the late evening light.

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Lovely slices of blood oranges and cara cara oranges ready for a salad. Simple and clean.

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Here are four “easy-as-this”  steps for making perfect oranges slices. This method is sometimes called “supreming” and it is just a technique in which you cut away the pith/membrane from the fruit before slicing or sectioning.

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Pretty easy huh? Slices piled on a salad plate topped with radish sprouts and a drizzle of dressing. It really is as “easy as this”.

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Cara Cara and Blood Orange Salad

  • Time: 20mins
  • Difficulty: extremelyeasy
  • Print

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Ingredients:

  • Ripe, firm, juicy oranges/citrus – for each salad serving use 2 different types. I used cara cara and blood oranges. For 4 servings you need  6-8 oranges, for 6 you need 10-12 oranges
  • fresh sprouts – radish are great, but pea sprouts or sunflower sprouts are good too
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • dressing to drizzle – creamy or vinaigrette.

Directions:

  1. “Supreme” your oranges/citrus and cut into slices. Remove any seeds. Here is how:DSC_0354DSC_0356DSC_0358DSC_0361
  2. Divide slices between serving plates and season with salt & pepper.
  3. Scatter fresh sprouts over the orange slices.
  4. Cover and chill if not eating immediately.
  5. Drizzle with dressing right before serving.

Teresa Blackburn      www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

 

Tomato Basil Soup with Bread from the “Soup for Syria” Cookbook

My friend Brad Hunter is a great “gift giver”. Over the years I have received quite a few from him and they are all among of my favorites. Some folks have that knack. Brad is one of those folks.

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Recipes Collected and Photographed by Barbara Abdeni Massaad. Published by Interlink Publishing Group, Inc.

He recently gave me a “cookbook-for-a-cause”. “Soup for Syria” is not just another cookbook. Many well-known chefs and cookbook authors contributed recipes for soups from around the world to raise funds for food relief efforts for Syrian refugees, of which at publication, numbered 3.8 million. Many, many of them children. Buy this beautifully photographed book, make some heart warming soup. Do what you can.

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This Sunday afternoon I made an adaptation of the cover recipe “Tomato Basil Soup with Bread” a recipe from contributor Martyna Monaco. It’s crazy easy to make, very delicious and comforting.

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Tomato Basil Soup with Bread

  • Time: 1hr
  • Difficulty: crazy easy
  • Print

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Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4-5 thick slices day old rustic bread
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 10 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 (28 oz) cans whole tomatoes in juice, cut up
  • 4-5 cups chicken or vegetable stock

Directions:

  1. In a large stock pot layer olive oil, bread slices, salt, oregano, garlic cloves, onion, basil leaves, tomatoes and stock. Bring to a boil.
  2. Turn heat to simmer for 30-40 minutes. Stir a few times. The bread will break up and thicken the soup.
  3. Serve hot with additional basil leaves.

Serving note: I topped each serving with cubed bread croutons and a scattered a bit of freshly grated Parmesan over the top.

Original recipe from: “Soup for Syria” published in 2016 by Interlink Publishing Group, Inc. Photographed by Barbara Abdeni Massaad.

foodonfifth.com

Easy Chocolate-Espresso Cake with Chocolate Glaze and Candied Orange Peel

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It is the end of January 2017.  It’s my birthday week. It has been a rocky month politically. Today I had to turn inside myself and away from the never-ending news feeds that seem to break a little piece of my heart every time I listen.  I took the afternoon off from being vigilant. I went for a walk in the wintry gloom listening to music to clear my head and heart. I baked an easy chocolate cake to sooth my soul. Baking helps.

This lovely cake is one dense, moist layer glazed with a really great chocolate bar melted on top and sprinkled with dried candied orange peels. 

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I broke this bar of chocolate into pieces and scattered over the top of the hot cake to melt. Any good bar of chocolate would do.

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Ingredients for this cake are all mixed together in a blender. Easy and quick.

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Easy Chocolate Espresso Cake with a Chocolate Glaze and Candied Orange Peels

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 1hr
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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Ingredients:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup dark cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4-6 ounce dark chocolate baking bar or flavored candy bar
  • 1/2 cup candied orange peels

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Melt butter in a glass deep dish pie or cake pan in the microwave and then pour melted butter into a blender.
  3. To blender add eggs, sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, flour and vanilla extract. Pulse to blend ingredients together well, scraping down blender as needed.
  4. Scrape cake batter into buttered glass dish and bake for 30-35  minutes or until cake is just done in the middle. Remove dish from oven to cool for a few minutes on a cooking rack. Turn hot cake out onto a plate.
  5. Break bar of chocolate into small pieces and scatter over top of hot cake. Let melt and then spread over top to glaze.
  6. Sprinkle candied orange peel over the top. Serve warm or room temperature.

http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com       http://www.foodonfifth.com

Maple Kumquat Marmalade E.A.T. #22

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Sometimes I see an ad for a new gadget or appliance that makes me stop and wonder. Wonder why? Wonder at the desperation to come up with the newest thing to sell to people just “because”. The novelty seems to be the thing in itself.

There is an ad for a refrigerator that is showing up everywhere right now that has a camera(s) inside that connects to your phone.  If you have one of these you can always know what you have, or do not have, on hand to eat. Personally this is just too much information for me. One thing I wonder is if when you open this refrigerator does it take pics of you as well? Could this be another social media app- InstaRefrigerator? Has it come to this? You heard it here first!

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Most days I just open the door of my refrigerator and improvise. Improvised recipes can be the best. Finding “hidden food” in the back of the fridge might even lead to a blog post. I happily found a few cartons of kumquats at the back of my “no-camera” fridge a few days ago. I bought them over the holidays, forgot about them, rediscovered them and made marmalade. Part of the fun was the unexpected discovery of these orange orbs still just as plump as the day I bought them.

A marmalade with three ingredients…seeded kumquats, maple syrup and a pinch of sea salt. It’s as “easy-as-this”.

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Seeding is simple. Cut kumquats in half and seed with a spoon or your fingers. It takes a little time, but can be meditative.

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Thick syrup, softened sweet-tart kumquat marmalade smeared on hearty crusty bread toasted, or not!

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Maple Kumquat Marmalade

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Ingredients:

  • 3 pints of fresh kumquats, rinsed, cut in half and seeded
  • 1 cup real maple syrup
  • pinch of sea salt

Directions:

  1. Place kumquats and maple syrup in non-reactive pan and bring to a low boil. Turn heat to simmer, stirring often. Cook for about 30 minutes or until kumquats are softened to marmalade consistency and juice has thickened. If necessary add a bit of water to mixture as it cooks down.
  2. Ladle marmalade into glass jars. Store chilled for up to 2 months.

Teresa Blackburn     http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

5 Readers Most Favorite Blog Posts Ever and Happy New Year and Thank you

After making this list of most popular-with-readers blog posts ever I noticed some common threads that must have made them so. One thing is there are lots of folks who respond to “boozy” posts. The exotic Buddha Hand citron is such a seductive subject in all its glory.  Sweet things are universally appealing as are family stories. Enjoy.

# 1. “Pear Infused Vodka” Holiday Gift Idea / E.A.T. #11   Folks all over the world have clicked on this post…so I figure lots of folks like boozy pears? Thanks to each and every one of you.

Homemade Pear Infused Vodka

#2. “Buddha’s Hand Good Luck Marmalade”     A few years ago I ran across my first “Buddha Hand” citron. I purchased, I blogged and for over 6 years this post has been the second-all-time most popular, hit on, reposted of all my posts. It didn’t hurt that Smithsonian Magazine included a link to my site in their story about the subject. Who knew?

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#3.  Blood Orangecello and Bootlegging    This post contains a family tale depicted in the title which must have proved irresistible to more than a few lovers of homemade hooch and blood-red, very-short-seasonal, blood oranges.

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#4. Blackberries, A Snake and An Upside Down (Gluten Free) Cake  One of my favorites. It has a story about a dramatic blackberry picking experience with my Grandmother that left a definite impression on me as a child. I cannot hear a store of blackberry picking without thinking of it. The cake recipe is pretty good too.

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#5.  Give Me Some Sugar, Sugah!   Sugars flavored with so many good things such as ginger, lavender, star anise, vanilla beans and citrus peel just to name a few appealed to the sweet tooth in so many readers. This story was also an homage to all the real aunts, aunts-in-friendship, grandmothers and mothers who could never get enough of our sweet “sugah” when we were young.

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Happy Holidays Y’all Cranberry-Apple Cider-Ginger Beer Cocktail

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Simple seasonal cocktails is what December calls for. So, make it easy and delicious with this cocktail that has a combination of cranberries, apple cider and ginger beer to add fizz and pizzaz .

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Alcoholic or not…you choose…Happy Holidays Y’all.

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Cranberry-Apple Cider-Ginger Beer Cocktail

  • Servings: 20drinks
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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Ingredients:

  • 1 2/3 cups fresh cranberries, divided
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar, or to taste
  • 7 1/2  cups apple cider
  • 3 1/2 cups ginger beer
  • 2 1/2 cups Gin or to taste
  • Note: You can make this a mocktail/no alcohol as well

Directions:

  1. Place 1 1/3 cups cranberries in a food processor and pulse until chopped. Scrape into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add sugar and stir well to mix.
  3. Add apple cider & stir well.  Strain mixture into a large serving pitcher. Chill for 1 hour.
  4. Right before serving add in ginger beer and gin. Taste and adjust flavors if need be. Serve over ice with a few whole cranberries for garnish. Happy Holidays Y’all.

Teresa Blackburn   http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com  www.foodonfifth.com