Thursday, December 17, 2009

Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup

I am not going to lie any longer. I am addicted to soup. Every year as winter sets in, I get out the stockpot and begin the Soupstravaganza for the season. Or something like that. But seriously, there is nothing like a giant pot of soup on the stove and rolls warming in the oven. We had a friend over for dinner and this recipe served the three of us very hearty portions, with another left for my lunch tomorrow.

I used full fat sausage and didn't mind the fat in it; however, you can use a leaner sausage if you prefer - just add a little olive oil while browning the sausage so it doesn't stick to the pot.

This recipe was adapted from the one found here.

  • 1 lb Italian sausage, casings removed (I used hot sausage)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 2 carrots, thinly chopped
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 pinch dried basil (about 1/2 tsp)
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups water
  • 10-12 oz. bag of dried tortellini (I used 12 oz. Barilla spinach and cheese tortellini)
  • parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. In a large stockpot, cook the sausage for about 5 minutes over medium heat, mashing it up with a spatula into small pieces.
  2. Add the garlic and onion and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add the beef stock, carrots, zucchini, basil, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
  4. Add the tortellini and water and cook until tortellini is cooked but not overdone.
  5. Remove from heat, ladle into individual bowls and top with parmesan cheese, if desired.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cardamon Spice Cookies with Chocolate Glaze

Cardamom is a lesser known member of the ginger family, and is fantastic in cooking as well as baking. These cookies are in the style of icebox cookies, which are rolled up into a log, refrigerated, and sliced into thin discs. I suggest preparing the dough the night before you wish to bake.

The recipe is great plain, but also consider them paired with the chocolate glaze recipe that follows. Chocolate must be melted slowly to prevent the fat from separating itself
(hence the low heat).

This recipe was adapted from Mary Engelbreit's Cookies Cookbook.

Cookie Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Cookie Directions
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and cardamom.
  2. In a larger bowl, beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer or stand mixer (on medium speed) until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla. Turn the mixer to low speed and gradually beat in the flour mixture.
  3. On a floured surface, form the dough into a 14-inch log and wrap in waxed or parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, then unwrap and reroll to refine shape. Return to fridge for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1/4=inch slice and place about 1 inch apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Glaze Ingredients
  • 6 oz chocolate (I used 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate and 3 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil (or another flavorless oil)

Glaze Directions
  1. In a small saucepan, melt half the chocolate over low heat. Remove from the heat and add the remaining chocolate and the oil, stirring occasionally, until smooth.
  2. Scrape into a small bowl and dip each cookie halfway into the chocolate and place on a wire rack until chocolate sets.

These baked up crunchy, and paired well with a cup of tea. Cardamom cookies are great for someone who wants a twist on a traditional gingerbread cookie, or perhaps doesn't want as intense a spice flavor as gingerbread provides.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Garlic Hummus

Hummus is a Middle Eastern dip, made with chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), tahini, and often the addition of a flavor. Tahini is like peanut butter, but made out of sesame seeds rather than peanuts, and is often found right next to peanut butter in the grocery store. While a little on the pricey side, it does a perfect job in this recipe of keeping the hummus a proper consistency. This recipe is based on one found at, where you can also find hummus recipes that don't require tahini.

Thanks to my mother, who bought me my food processor! In this recipe, there really is no replacement for a good food processor, which works the ingredients together to produce a light, fluffy texture.

  • 2 cans of chickpeas / garbanzo beans - 19 oz. each
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup liquid drained from chickpeas
  • 4-8 large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with a knife (depending on how hot/spicy you want the hummus)
  • 3 Tbsp tahini (sesame butter)
  • 8-10 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

  1. Put all ingredients in food processor. Blend until smooth.
  2. If too thick, add a little olive oil, lemon juice, or chickpea liquid to smooth it out.
  3. Add salt and pepper to your liking.

Being Italian, I find great joy in a very garlicky things, so I used 8 very large cloves of garlic in my hummus. It is very hot, so if you are not a lover of strong garlic flavor, start with 3-4 cloves. You can also omit the garlic completely, which will make a nice plain hummus. The consistency was perfect and we put it in a dish with a garnish of flat leaf parsley.

Some suggestions for dipping implements: crackers (such as Wheat Thins), pita pockets cut into small pieces (or made into chips), or vegetables such as carrots and celery.