Hearty Minestrone Soup with Feta-Parmesan Cornbread to Cure The February Funk

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The are many similarities between Southerners and Italians…we both like to talk excitedly and passionately about things we feel strongly about…we both love to cook and truly believe that food can heal among other things…a broken heart, the flu and any sort of general malaise. A general (February dark wet days) malaise seems to have fallen over many folks I have talked to this week. Nothing specific…just a general funk!

I suggest to cure your February Funk make this Minestrone Soup and Cornbread. Make a big pot to eat on for days. Make a big skillet of cornbread as well. I am sure you will brighten up and feel happier right away!

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My well-seasoned Lodge Cast Iron Skillet gives my recipe a very nice crust. A cast iron skillet like this one is a must for making true Southern cornbread.

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Minestrone Soup, Italian for a myriad of vegetable soups, can have pretty much whatever you want in it. One thing I always add is the leftover rind of Parmesan Cheese. Don’t throw them away as they add lots of flavor to any soup. I combine canned beans, fresh squash, canned or fresh tomatoes and chicken stock as the base for my version. You can add pasta or not. Experiment to come up with your own style.

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When I eat hearty winter soups like Minestrone a skillet of cornbread is part of the picture.  Experimenting with a basic cornbread recipe is my usual approach. This week I had lots of Feta and shredded-herbed Parmesan cheeses left over from a photo shoot.

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A good olive oil is what I put into the skillet while it is heating up. The cornbread will have a very crispy outside crust and stay moist inside if you get the skillet and oil very, very hot in a 400 degree oven before adding the batter. See what I mean below?

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Cook. Eat Well. Talk about stuff. Cook some more. You will feel better in the morning!

Hearty Minestrone Soup and Feta-Parmesan Cornbread

  • Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients for Minestrone Soup:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 zucchini squash, cut into half moons
  • 2 yellow squash, cut into half moons
  • 1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 to 2 Parmesan cheese rinds
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 cups cooked chicken shredded (optional)

Ingredients for Cornbread:

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp dried Italian herb mixture
  • 1/4 cup olive oil + more for skillet
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk

Directions for Soup:

  1. Heat olive oil in a heavy soup pan over medium high heat. Add diced onions and cook until translucent.
  2. To soup pan add broth, zucchini and yellow squash, cannellini beans, kidney beans, black beans, tomatoes and Parmesan rinds. Bring to a boil then turn heat to low and cook for 45 minutes. Add salt and pepper and red pepper flakes  and shredded chicken if using.Taste and adjust seasoning if desired. Also you can add a bit more broth or water if soup gets too thick. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

Directions for Cornbread:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. While oven is heating add a bit of olive oil to a cast iron skillet and place in oven to get very hot.
  2. Blend together, using a whisk, the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Add in the feta and Parmesan cheeses and the Italian herb mixture.
  4. To dry ingredients add 1/4 cup olive oil, egg and milk. Stir until blended.
  5. Remove hot skillet from oven and add cornbread batter. Place back in oven and cook for about 25 minutes or until puffy and golden brown. Serve hot cut  with Minestrone Soup.

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

Fusilli Al Ferretto with Turkey, Spinach & Feta Meatballs to get you into an Italian State of Mind

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This will be short and savory as I am soon to embark on a trip…to various European countries…Italy among them. Which led to thoughts of food and pasta and sauces and the wonders that await my palate.I will leave you with a very good recipe that is easy to make, not much cooking time needed and if you close your eyes while eating you might get into an Italian state of mind right along with me.

 I have often mentioned the little Italian grocery store and pasta shop on my street, Lazzaroli’s, right here in Nashville on 5th Avenue North.  It will get anyone in an Italian food state of mind for sure. I picked up this bag of Fusilli Al Ferretto, translated to mean “wrapped on a needle”, for my recipe.  Fresh pasta is made everyday by Tom Lazzaro who is a master of all he touches. Cheeses, dried and fresh pastas, homemade ricotta, sauces, balsamic vinegars to die for, breads, homemade sauces abound. It is a little shop with all things edible and Italian.

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So beautiful. Wonderfully twisted and hollow to hold the sauce.

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Simple to make turkey meatballs with feta and fresh spinach.

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A carton of homemade tomato sauce from Lazzaroli’s added to the pan.

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Pasta added and tossed. A grating of Parmesan Reggiano and crusty bread.

Close your eyes…take a bite….you are in your own little Italy…right?

Buon Appetito!

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Fusilli al Ferretto with Turkey, Feta and Fresh Spinach Meatballs

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian Herbs
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. Fusilli al Ferretto pasta or other tube pasta
  • 2 cups Marinara sauce – homemade preferred
  • Parmesan Reggiano grated
  • a bottle of your favorite Italian Red Wine to drink along with your meal

Directions:

  1. Mix together the ground turkey, chopped spinach, feta cheese crumbles, Italian Herb mixture and freshly ground black pepper. Blend well. Form the mixture into meatballs. Chill for 20 minutes on a baking sheet before cooking.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  3. Meanwhile saute meatballs in olive oil over medium high heat until lightly browned and cooked inside.
  4. Add marinara sauce to the pan and turn heat to simmer.
  5. When water comes to a boil add the pasta and cook according to the package directions or until al dente. Reserve one cup of the pasta water and drain pasta.
  6. Add pasta to the pan with the meatballs and sauce and toss. If you like a more wet sauce add a bit of the pasta water.
  7. Serve pasta with a dusting of grated Parmesan, some warm crusty bread and a bottle of Italian red.

Teresa Blackburn    teresablackburnfoodstying.com

“September Tomatoes, Bacon & Spinach Pie with Thyme-Pepper Crust”

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The September tomatoes…the ripe red ones that hang on vines starting to droop, vines heavy with green tomatoes that will never see red…these ripe homegrowns are the sweetest of the season I think. They are summer’s last gift before it is all a memory.

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What to do with the last few tomatoes just picked? A BLT…a jar of tomato sauce…a pie? Yes. I love to make pies.  A deep savory pie it will be.

A crust using fresh lemon thyme from my garden along with some freshly ground black peppercorns is where I will start.

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I am a fan of the springform pan for tarts & pies as well as for cake. A straight sided savory pie is just so beautiful.

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Thick sliced homegrown tomatoes salted and draining on paper towels before adding to the pie helps pull out some of the water before using. I do not want this pie to be too watery.

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The spinach & ricotta filling  is creamy enough to hold up the next layers.

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Filling topped with thick sliced toms and crispy, thick sliced bacon torn into pieces.

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Creamy spinach filling, salty-sweet September tomatoes & crispy bacon. Let’s eat! DSC_1955

September Tomatoes, Bacon & Spinach Pie

  • Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached flour with a pinch of salt added
  • 1 stick cold butter cut into small pieces
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black peppercorns
  • a few tablespoons cold water
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 med homegrown tomatoes sliced thickly/or 1 large tomato & some cherry toms
  • 1 cup whole fat ricotta
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup fresh spinach steamed, drained & chopped
  • 4 slices thick bacon, cooked crispy & broken into pieces
  • sea salt & freshly ground black peppercorns

Directions:

  1. For crust put the flour, pinch of salt, thyme leaves & pepper in a food processor & pulse a few times. Add cold butter pieces, pulse a few more times until incorporated.
  2. With machine running drizzle in ice-cold water until a dough ball forms. Flatten dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes before rolling out.
  3. In the meantime, place thickly sliced tomatoes on paper towels & sprinkle with some sea or kosher salt. Let sit for 20 minutes. This will pull some of the moisture out of the tomatoes. Right before adding to the pie pat dry again with dry paper towels.
  4. Preheat oven to 350. Roll chilled dough out on a floured board into a circle large enough to fit into & half-way up the sides of  a 9″ springform  pan.
  5. Spray pan bottom & sides with cooking spray. Fit dough into the pan bottom & half way up sides. Crimp and fold to make an even top edge. Set aside.
  6. In a mixing bowl whisk together the ricotta and eggs, 1/2 tsp each salt & pepper,  until fluffy. Stir in drained & chopped spinach. Mix well.
  7. Sprinkle the crumbled feta over the bottom of the dough. Top with the ricotta-spinach mixture. Add tomato slices. Scatter the crispy bacon pieces over all.
  8.  Bake for 35-45 minutes or until puffy & golden brown and center is set. Cover with a sheet of foil if the top starts getting too brown.  Let rest for 20 min. before cutting.

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