Cannellini Bean-Vegetable Soup Au Pistou and Black Pepper-Thyme Corn Sticks

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Comfort food in a world of chaos and uncertainty is what many of us home cooks create to ease the tensions of daily life. Few foods are more comforting than soups. The ease of preparation and ingredients, the simple cooking methods…these are things we can control when there is so much going on around us that we cannot.

My version of the classic French “Soup au Pistou” is one of my comfort foods on these November days when darkness comes early and there is a chill in the air and in a small place in my heart.

Pistou is somewhat like pesto but without pine nuts. Just a blend of fresh basil leaves, garlic and olive oil all smashed together either in a mortar and pestle, or as I did in a food processor. Pistou is a sauce or condiment from the Provence region of France and you will find it simple and easy to make.

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Do you ever add the rinds of Parmesan cheese to your pot when making hearty soups? Try it if you have not. It is a good way to use those flavorful rinds and will make your finished soup even more delicious.

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I love cornbread so these crispy “Black Pepper-Thyme Cornbread Sticks” are good to serve with this soup. Baked in a sheet pan and then cut into sticks make them great “dippers”.

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Eat well. Be kind to yourself and others.

Cannellini Bean-Vegetable Soup with Pistou and Black Pepper Cornbread Sticks

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients for Soup:

  • Splash of olive oil
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 2 leeks thinly sliced, white and pale green parts
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 zucchini squash, sliced & cut into half moons
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced and cut into half moons
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • one piece of Parmesan rind
  • 2 cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

Ingredients for Cornbread Sticks:

  • 1 package of your favorite yellow corn bread mix (I use Bob’s Red Mill) + ingredients called for on package directions)
  • 1 Tbsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)

Ingredients for Pistou:

  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves smashed
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions:

  1. For Soup: Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat & add the anchovies. Use a wooden spoon to stir and cook until the anchovies break up and dissolve.
  2. Toss leeks and celery into the pan. Saute for 10 minutes or until vegetables soften and begin to brown. Add a pinch of sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Add zucchini and yellow squash, chicken broth and Parmesan rind. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Add beans to pan, stir and turn heat to lowest setting to keep hot while you make cornbread and pistou.
  4. For Cornbread: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix cornbread mix according to package directions adding the cracked black pepper, Parmesan and thyme leaves to the batter. Spread batter into a rimmed baking sheet sprayed with vegetable oil spray. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove pan from oven to cool on a wire rack.
  5. For Pistou: Put basil leaves and garlic cloves in a food processor and pulse a few times. Drizzle in olive oil just until mixture is a pesto-like consistency. I like a less oily pistou. If you prefer more oil then continue adding until it is to your liking.
  6. To: Serve. Cut cornbread into “sticks”. Ladle soup into bowls and add a dollop of the pistou to stir into the soup. Serve remaining pistou on the side. Enjoy.

Teresa Blackburn      www.teresablackburnfoodstying.com    www.foodonfifth.com

Spring Leeks & Asparagus Tarts

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“April come she will, When streams are ripe, And swelled with rain…….” (Lyrics by Paul Simon “April Come She Will”)

Somehow the end of March sneaked up on me while I wasn’t looking! I have been very aware of the trees leafing out, the tulips starting to bloom, daylight savings time of course, but the actual dates…not so much.

March was a very busy month for food styling with many photo shoots that needed a lot of my attention as well as a few garden renovation projects that have been taking up the remainder of my time. This morning I realized there is only one more day in March. I felt happy as this is a week I can stay home for a few days,  and a little sad as it is all moving by so quickly. Alas such is life! Is that not April I see on the near horizon?

I made this Spring Leeks & Asparagus Tarts recipe a couple of years ago for a dinner party. Perfect for an Easter brunch or lunch. Enjoy.

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Small leeks just pulled from the garden…

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….thin, tender asparagus, shallots chopped & caramelized……

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…crispy bacon crumbled.

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Flaky buttery pie crusts with just a bit of cornmeal to add some crunch. I just love these rectangle tart pans with fluted edges & removable bottoms. 

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Varicolored eggs…perfect for Easter.

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A scattering of chopped leeks over the crusts, topped with a parmesan-egg mix….

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…caramelized shallots ….

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…decoratively arranged asparagus…one tart with bacon, one without.

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Puffy, warm and ready to eat.

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Spring Leek & Asparagus Tarts

  • Servings: 8-10
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Ingredients:

  • For 2 crusts: 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal.1 tsp salt, 1 cup cold butter cut into small pieces & ice water
  • 6-8 small Spring leeks (or 2 regular size leeks), trimmed & sliced
  • 1/2 lb thin asparagus spears
  • 8 eggs
  • 7 slices bacon cooked crisp & chopped
  • 2 shallots, chopped & sautéed until caramelized
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup plain Greek Yogurt
  • Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a food processor place the flour, cornmeal & salt &  pulse a few times. Add butter pieces & pulse until mixture is crumbly looking. With processor running drizzle in ice water until a dough ball forms. Remove dough & divide in half forming two balls. Flatten each into a disk, wrap in plastic & chill for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Roll out dough and fit into two rectangle tart pans with removable bottoms, trimming edges,  or 2 pie pans.
  4. In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, Parmesan cheese, yogurt & salt & black pepper until well blended. Set aside.
  5. Evenly scatter the sliced leeks over the bottom of each tart shell and ladle the egg mixture over the top.
  6. Sprinkle the top of each tart with caramelized shallots & chopped bacon. I added the bacon to one tart and made the other vegetarian.
  7. Decoratively place the asparagus spears over the tops of each tart gently pressing into the filling.
  8. Place filled tart pans on a baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes or until they are golden brown and puffy. Remove to cool a few minutes before serving on a wire rack. Serve hot or at room temp.

“Bacon-Tomato-Polenta Breakfast Stack”

   “Breakfast Stack” Sunday morning, 6 am….hungry….a fresh & varied selection of homegrown heirloom tomatoes sitting on my kitchen counter…some thick sliced bacon in the fridge..a BLT? No bread. Hmmmmm.

I do find, along with the bacon, some fresh mozzarella, some leeks & fresh dill…still…no bread. Polenta? Yes, I have polenta and can make some quick polenta skillet cakes…eggs? Yes, I have eggs from the West Nashville Farmer’s Market.

To Make the Polenta Skillet Cakes you will need:

1 cup polenta, 1.5 cups water, shredded Gruyère cheese (or whatever cheese you have), a hunk of cream cheese would be nice, 1/2 cup thinly sliced leeks, some fresh dill, butter, salt & pepper to taste.

1. Add the water to a pan & bring to a boil. While whisking, pour in the polenta. Turn heat to medium & continue to whisk & cook until polenta mixture begins to thicken which will take a few minutes.

2. Add the remaining ingredients whisking to blend. Remove from heat.

3. Let polenta mixture sit for about 15 minutes to cool somewhat while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

4. To make skillet cakes heat a non-stick or well-seasoned iron skillet over medium-hi heat. Add a dollop of butter. (We are not counting calories on a Sunday morning!)

5. Spoon large dollops of the polenta mixture into hot skillet cooking until a bit crusty and brown on both sides. Note: these skillet cakes will be soft, messy but that is okay. Just work the hot polenta dollops into “cakes” using your spatula. When crispy on the outside remove to a sheet pan and place in warm oven until all skillet cakes are done.

“Crispy Polenta Skillet Cakes”

6. Cook some bacon until crispy. (Our dog, Ella, was at this point doing a kitchen dance hoping to get a scrap!)

7. Choose some ready-to-eat homegrown tomatoes to slice.

“Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra, Wild Cherry, Mortgage Lifter & Yellow Pear Tomatoes”

8. To Serve: Place one of the Polenta Skillet Cakes on each plate. Top with a thin slice of Mozzarella. Add a slice of tomato & then one slice of crispy bacon cut into two pieces. Repeat layers ending with some tomato slices, a dusting of sea salt & cracked black pepper. Eat with a knife & fork. It’s okay to let the stack slide over to eat!

Alternative: Fry up an egg. Slice an avocado. Add  these to the top of stack along with a few tomatoes.


                                                                   “Homegrown tomatoes homegrown tomatoes… what’d life be without homegrown tomatoes….                                                                                                                                                                     Only two things that money can’t buy…That’s love & homegrown tomatoes”                                                                                                  Lyrics by Guy Clark, Song: Homegrown Tomatoes