Tailgate Soup: Turn Sunday’s Smorgasbord into a Monday Night Football Feast

When your favorite football team is as terrible as ours, it’s best to make tailgating the “main event” of game day.  So we had a dozen or so people over for an at-home tailgate party before watching the Browns game.  After everyone went home, and the dishes were done, it was time to assess the leftovers.

tailgate soup-montage pic

Hmmm….a couple of brats, a ton of baked beans, the remnants of a veggie tray, burger fixins’ and a lot of Bloody Mary supplies.  (no beer..that we drank every last drop of to drown our sorrows)

tailgate soup-baked bean

Given the volume of baked beans which are not something we eat a lot of in our house…I decided to incorporate those into a soup because I know my daughter, Julia, will slurp it up!  Go time.

tailgate soup-julia

I started by cutting up two slices of peppered bacon (from the very elaborate Bloody Mary bar a guest came with!) Once I fried those up in a small stock pot, I added some chopped onions (red and white, but you could use whatever you’ve got) leftover from the burger toppings platter, and let those soften.  To that I added chopped celery and carrot (probably the equivalent of one carrot and one stalk of celery) and cooked on a medium high until those too were soft (just 3-4 minutes).

tailgate soup-veggies

(I added corn to this original batch because I had some around and thought it would be good for color.  I think it enhanced the soup, but it’s not necessary)

tailgate soup-saute

I sliced up one bratwurst into bite sized pieces and dumped that in to the mixture, along with 2 cups of beef broth.  Once that was brought to a boil, I added 1 cup of baked beans, and 1/2 cup of Bloody Mary mix.  Given the contents (peppered bacon, seasoned beans, and the drink mix) I went easy on the salt and pepper, but do it to your taste.  I also added dash of hot sauce.

tailgate soup-ladle

Let that magic simmer for about 25 minutes and you’ve got yourself a soup that will fill your belly and keep you satisfied through Monday Night Football.

Sisters Pasta Night: Homemade Mushroom Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage

In colleges, my sister studied abroad in Siena, Italy.  She could barely put two sentences of Italian together at the end of her experience…she mostly studied wine and Italian men.  But she came home with a killer hand-made pasta recipe.  And while she might call me on a weekly basis for meal suggestions, and help with recipe substitutions, she is still the authority in the family on home-made pasta dough.  It’s something we do together whenever she is in town. 

For this round I was ready to make a ton of pasta, and freeze it.  And I wanted to use the bountiful herb garden I was “passively cultivating.”  It’s a real jungle back there because I can’t seem to find the time to maintain it.

herb-garden

I sifted through the hip-high cilantro and lettuce plants, to snip bunches of fresh parsley, chives, sage, and basil.

garden-herbs

I knew we’d need marinara sauce for all this fresh pasta too, so I put a pot of that on as well.  Working loosely off a recipe I learned at a class at The Loretta Paganini School of Cooking, I used garlic and onion, grated celery and carrot, whole peeled tomatoes, a pinch of crushed red pepper, salt and pepper, and lots of the fresh parsley and basil.

marinara-sauce

While that simmered, we got to work on the first dough.  The ingredients are few…it’s the technique that’s still tough for me.

3 c. flour, unbleached

3 large eggs

1/4 c. dry white wine

1 tsp. salt

Water or extra flour, if needed

Lexi-making-pasta

You start by creating a “mound” with your flour, and make a deep well.  Meanwhile crack the eggs in a bowl and break the yolks up with a fork, then add the wine and salt to the eggs.  Carefully pour the egg mixture into the well.  Then, using a fork, slowly bring the flour in to the egg mixture.  When the flour is totally absorbed, begin kneading by hand for 20 min…no shortcuts!  Add water if it seems dry, or sprinkle more flour if it’s too wet.  Gather it in a ball and place it in a mixing bowl, covered with plastic wrap, to rest for 30 min…no shortcuts there either.

The first batch was dinner that night: a classic fettuccine with marinara.  We made a second batch of dough for me to make ravioli with.  I whipped up the filling while Lexi, and my eager daughters, kneaded.

Julia-making-pasta     Natalie-making-pasta

I wanted to use all that beautiful sage.  So I sautéed some mushrooms in olive oil, with garlic and shallots.  Then I added chopped sage, and a drizzle of truffle oil.  I mixed that with some ricotta, salt and pepper, and more truffle oil and let it cool while we rolled the dough.

Natalie-rolling-dough

First we cut the fettuccine, as we’ve done every time before.  You start on the widest setting, cranking that pasta machine to gradually reduce the width until the dough is the desired thickness, then cut it. (angel hair, linguine, fettuccine, etc.)  We sprinkled a tablecloth with flour and let it dry while we moved on to the delicate ravioli.

homemade-pasta

For those, we rolled the dough out, same as before.  Then we laid the sheets of pasta over my grandmother’s old ravioli plates.  I put a generous teaspoon of the filling in each pouch.

ravioli filling

Then we placed a second sheet on top, and used a rolling-pin (and the back of a spoon) to “stamp” or cut them.  We tore off the excess around the edges then carefully popped out each delicate little ravioli.

Ravioli-trays

To be honest, these usually don’t turn out so well for me…but these looked beautiful!!

Last round of dough was experimental.  I chopped up a ton of fresh chives and we incorporated that into the dough during the kneading process.  Toss this pasta with a little butter and you’ve got something pretty spectacular.

pasta-with-chives

There was salted water boiling on the stove…time to taste the fruits of our labor!  First course was the fettuccine and marinara.  It didn’t disappoint.  While we poured a second (or fourth?) glass of wine, I browned some butter and added more chopped sage, plus seasoning.  When the ravioli were cooked through in the water, I drained them and added them to the saute pan to brown them up.  Sprinkle some grated cheese on top. Perfection.

Julia-in-an-apron

I had a full heart and a full belly at the end of the evening.  It was so much fun for my girls to share in a special sisters pasta night!  I hope they carry on the tradition.

Mangia Mojo Shrimp Skewers

Shrimp cocktail is a real treat…one you shouldn’t waste when there’s excess. (I’m still unsure why there ever is!) But it has a short shelf life.  So when there was a bowl full of shrimp leftover from my birthday dinner (Thanks, Mom) I moved quickly to execute some Cheftovers magic. 

shrimp cocktail

I recently connected with the fine folks and fellow foodies at Mangia Dry Rub(http://www.mangia.tv/) They invited me to try a couple of their products and incorporate them into some of my Cheftovers concoctions.  Since one of them was labeled “Shrimp Mojo Dry Rub,” I took this as a sign!  It’s packed with Cajun flavors (Ingredients: onion powder, garlic powder, salt, sugar, spices: paprika, celery, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper and turmeric)

mangia dry rub

I followed the instructions on the package, and mixed two parts spice mix with one part oil (I used canola) then added that to a Ziploc bag full of the  cocktail shrimp for a kind of “reverse marinade” since the shrimp was already cooked.  I stuck that in the fridge for about an hour until I was ready to grill ’em up.

marinating shrimp

When it was time to fire them, I found some wooden skewers and a long grill pan.  I threaded six or seven shrimp on each skewer, and was pleased with how well the Mangia Mojo rub stuck to the shrimp. I hate when all the marinade (and the flavor) is left in the container you marinated in, instead of on the meat.

bringing shrimp up to temp

Here was the tricky part.  The shrimp was already cooked, and it’s really easy to over cook it, of course.  So to prevent tough, overdone shrimp, but also grill in that “mojo” I let the shrimp sit out on the counter for a few minutes to bring it up to room temperature.  I cranked up the burners below the grill pan to high.  What I was going for was a nice sear or grill marks on the outside…just a quick fire to change the flavor of the shrimp.  It only took a minute or two on each side.  (it’ll depend on the size of the shrimp you’re working with)

grilling shrimp

It was as easy as that!  I grabbed a nice pasta salad (also made with leftovers https://www.facebook.com/Cheftovers) from the fridge to accompany it.

pasta salad

Suddenly this meal was starting to feel like I was bringing the cook-out indoors.  The Mangia Mojo Dry Rub gave the shrimp cocktail a new personality, and it helped turn an appetizer into a satisfying supper.

mangia mojo shrimp skewers

mix one part

Stone Soup

Seems like a soup-y kind of Sunday.  The snow hasn’t stopped falling all day and I want a warm belly full of something hearty.  As I usually do over the weekend, I cook ahead to make weekday evenings a little more relaxing.  After poaching a head of cabbage for stuffed cabbage, I realized I had half of it left, and hated to just toss it.  I poked around the pantry and fridge and thought of the children’s book, Stone Soup.  The lesson it leaves you with: make soup with what you’ve got.  Pretty soon I had a pile of veggies, (combination of canned, frozen and fresh) that were scraps and excess from other recipes, plus things I keep in the house for precisely this kind of occasion.

stone soup veggies

I started by chopping some garlic, onion and celery and sauteed that in a big pot with some hot oil.  Once those softened I added some carrots.

stone soup sauteed veggies

Found half a yellow zucchini and some kale in the vegetable drawer…why not?  Then I tossed in some frozen peas and canned corn.  I eyeballed the amounts.  You can’t really screw up soup, right?!  I also reached for whatever canned tomato product I had in the pantry.  In this case, it was crushed tomatoes.  I put about a cup of that in and a full carton of chicken broth and some water.  After I seasoned it, I covered it and brought it to a boil.  Then I reduced the heat and let it simmer for about 30 min.

ladle of stone soup

Since the cabbage was already cooked, I decided to add that last so it wouldn’t break down in the soup.

cabbage

As luck would have it there were some alphabet noodles in the cupboard too.  Sounds like this truly would be a literary inspired soup.  The letters were the final touch.

Tasty, hearty, healthy and cheap.  A lot better for the sodium levels and the wallet than a canned soup.  I’m already thinking about a corn chowder using the rest of the canned corn, and the potatoes sitting on my counter.  Maybe next Sunday.  Chances are, it’ll be damn cold, and snowy…again.  

Risotto Redux

When my husband bites into something he really likes, he often uses a playful term to describe it: “tastycakes.”  I believe I’ve just created actual “tastycakes.”  You be the judge.   I’ve asked those close to me, and those of you  following me to send me a challenge.  What are some of the leftovers you often have lingering around your house, that you’d like to give a “Cheftovers” makeover to?  My sister is this week’s challenger.  The subject: leftover risotto.

leftover risott

We like to make a lot of risotto in my family.  It’s a great side in its simplest form, and it’s a great canvas for other ingredients (often bits and pieces of excess ingredients from other dishes like asparagus, artichokes or spinach) that can help boost it up to an entree.  It takes time and attention, and arborio rice is much more expensive than white or brown rice.  For those reasons, it’s a shame to toss anything not eaten.

Whenever I see arancini on a menu, I can’t resist.  They’re rice balls (often with a cheesy center)  lightly breaded and fried, and served with a marinara…kinda like rice croquettes.  I knew I wanted to go this direction.  Problem is, I don’t have a fryer, which is necessary to get that even golden brown finish around the entire thing.  So I decided to adjust the shape for easier execution.  Just smoosh ’em down and call them risotto cakes!  I also remembered a half a bag of teeny tiny shrimp I had waiting in the freezer (the kind you’d use to make shrimp salad)  Now…I was cookin’!

start of marinara

I started on a quick marinara.  I chopped up some garlic, and onion and let those sweat it out in some olive oil while I finely diced up a stalk of celery and a carrot.  (for best results, you should really grate those both…but to be honest, I was feeling a bit lazy, so I decided to get past the slightly chunkier texture at the end to avoid that tedious step)  I allowed the veggies to cook down and soften, making sure to season them with salt and pepper.  Then I reached for the other half of a large can of crushed tomatoes I had in the fridge (from a recipe earlier in the week) as well as some tomato paste (from the same dish).  I added those, and a generous dash of crushed red pepper to give it some kick.  If I had fresh basil around, I would’ve used it here too.  But since I didn’t, I settled for dry herbs instead.  Since I was winging it, I stirred it and tasted it frequently, adding salt and water until it had the consistency and flavor I was looking for.  In the end, I actually ran it through a food processor to get a smoother texture.

marinar

Then I got to work on the risotto cakes.  To the leftover risotto, I added about a cup of chopped tiny shrimp, a heaping tablespoon of parsley, an egg and a little bit of breadcrumbs (until the mixture wasn’t “wet” anymore).  I didn’t season them too much, as the risotto already had been upon first preparation (with s/p, shallots and garlic).  I took about two tablespoons of the mixture and rolled it into a ball, then coated it in more breadcrumbs.  I placed them on a cookie sheet with parchment paper, then smashed them down until they looked more like crab cakes than meatballs.  I then froze them to prevent them from falling apart in the frying pan.

risotto cakes

When I was ready to cook them, I just defrosted them in the refrigerator to defrost, than pan fried them, just like I would a crab cake.  I warmed the marinara and served it on the side.  Tastycakes, indeed.

What’s next?  Give me something good to work with!  I’m ready.  Send pics or ideas and I’ll get cooking.