13 February 2017

Minestrone and Savory Bread Pudding

Checking in after a long hiatus from food blogging ... not that I wasn't eating up a storm!

The first of the really intense winter weather has settled down over New England and we're just loving it ! Mimi and SB were outside this morning hauling wood to the woodboxes and packing down the toboggan run on the back hill. While they were hard at it, Pete and I stayed inside and made soup and a gooey savory bread pudding for lunch.

There's something really satisfying about peeling, slicing, and dicing all that veg - the smells of everything beginning a quick sauté build so nicely, as the veg gets going with the bacon. I suppose also it's knowing that SB will truly appreciate a steamy bowl when he comes in from the cold. The recipe is a favorite from The Food 52 Cookbook - Smoky Minestrone with Tortellini and Basil Pesto. It's probably got a week's worth of vitamins and minerals in one bowl! To boot, I made a side of Savory Bread Pudding to have alongside the soup ...  also a recipe from the same cookbook. More about that later.

Smoky Minestrone with Tortellini and Basil Pesto


3 tbsp. olive oil
4 slices of smoked bacon, cut into small rectangles and separated
1 large onion, peeled, small dice
2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
3 large carrots, peeled, small dice
2 medium potatoes, peeled, small dice
2 large stalks celery, small dice
1 zucchini, small dice
6 c. chicken stock
1 - 28 oz can chopped tomatoes and their juices - San Marzano are expensive, but very good here
1 - 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Kosher salt - a few pinches if your stock isn't salty
Black pepper, a few generous pinches
9 oz. fresh tortellini (cheese-filled) cooked and drained
2 c. kale, stemmed and finely chopped

Making the Soup:

1. Heat a heavy soup pot and add a bit of the olive oil measure and bacon pieces. Cook the bacon over medium heat until it starts to brown up.
2. Add the rest of the olive oil, the onion and garlic and cook until the onion starts to glisten.
3. Add the carrots, celery, and potatoes and stir them in. Continue cooking for about five minutes.
4. Add the zucchini and soften it a bit.
5. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, chick peas, salt, and pepper. 
6. Let the soup come to a slow boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes and carrots are tender.
7. Meanwhile, cook the pasta and chop the kale.
8. When the potatoes are almost tender, drain the tortellini and add it and the kale to the soup. Toss in gently, heat thoroughly.
9. Serve the soup hot with a dollop of basil pesto and some grated Parmesan cheese. 

The cookbook gives a basil pesto recipe, but I tend to buy pesto in tubs to have on bread, with cheese and crackers, or over bowls of pasta. So ... I cheated and used my store bought tub on this soup. Sometimes simplicity is just what's needed.

This is such a great wintertime comfort food. Perfect with crusty bread or a side of bread pudding. I was going to have a strata for breakfast, but thought better of it, as the soup idea popped into my little brain. Then, as the soup simmered, the idea of that strata morphed into putting my head in the fridge to see what I could do with some other veg. Voila! A bread pudding or is it a strata ? It has cubed brioche that's been lightly toasted, eggs, milk and half&half, Jarlsberg and Fontina cheeses, shallots, and mushrooms, thyme, chives, and parsley. My breakfast got put off until the soup was made and the bread pudding came out of the oven ... then, it was an early lunch for me!

Easy. Pretty in the pan, wonderfully aromatic and delicious! 

Savory Bread Pudding
Oven: 350 degrees F - bake for 35 minutes or until the internal temperature is 145 degrees F.


3 large brioche rolls, cut into 3/4-inch cubes ( 3 - 4 c. of bread cubes)
5 eggs
3/4 c. whole milk
3/4 c. half & half
5 slices bacon, cut into small rectangles and fried to a nice crisp, drained on paper towels
2 shallots, small dice
6 mushrooms, sliced kind of thick
1/2 tsp. dried thyme flakes
1/2 tsp. dried chives
1/2 tsp. parsley, minced
4 oz. Jarlsberg or swiss cheese, grated
2 oz. Fontina cheese, cut into little cubes

Making the Bread Pudding:

1. Place the bread cubes on a large pan and crisp in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove when lightly toasted and set aside to cool.
2. Fry the bacon pieces until beautifully golden and crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
3. Place the shallots in a deep mixing bowl. Add the eggs, milk, half &half, and herbs. Use a fork to whisk things together.
4. Mix in the cooled bread cubes and their crumbs and the bacon and Fontina cubes.
5. Toss in the mushroom slices gently, so they don't break up.
6. Butter a baking dish and pour most of the bread mixture into the pan. Spread most of the grated Jarlsberg cheese. Top with the rest of the bread mixture. 
7. Sprinkle the last of the grated Jarlsberg atop, adding some more parsley and black pepper.
8. Bake in the center of the oven for about 35 minutes or until the bread pudding is puffed, golden, and has an internal temp of 145 degrees F.
9. Serve warm scoops alongside soups or  on a plate of sausages and home fries (for a brunch meal).

Yeah ... so what else have I been eating that has been worthy ?  Let's see ... Buttermilk Lemon Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. They were a hit at the church cupcake sale recently. Patatas Bravas made it to the Super Bowl party and gave folks a bit of heat on the palate. 
Sweet Bourbon Venison Meatballs were a delicious New Years treat. Peanut Butter and Chocolate Bonbon Squares have been a guilty pleasure. Goan Chicken and Potato Stew has given us a warm hit of curry. Mexican Chocolate Cake has been another luscious dessert. We're not starving here in the grey cottage ... we're living well from the pantry cupboard and keeping warm, wrapped up in comfy quilts.  We've got good books, computer games, jigsaw puzzles, and PBS Masterpiece Theatre's new show about Queen Victoria on the television. 

Life goes on, after all! What have you been up to? Leave a quick comment ... and stay warm and cozy!

1 comment:

  1. Both of those recipes look delicious! I'm missing all the NH snow - very little in the Twin Cities. When I came here I had visions of the North Pole, but not true - the dry air and cold wind keeps it pretty dry. Enjoy it for me!


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