The Easiest Potato Soup Ever (or, How I Saved Our Anniversary)

Last night was one of those acts of pantry desperation that turned out so well I acted like it was premeditated.  Yesterday was our eighth wedding anniversary.  I had a babysitter and reservations lined up, but stuff happens and we ended up rain checking the celebration.

Instead we ate my last-minute, completely intentionally delicious soup and salad.  As most good things do, it started with bacon.  Then potatoes and rosemary, a drizzle of olive oil and chives and a simple salad.

At this point, I wasn’t exactly sure which direction I was going, but I hate hand washing my immersion blender, so…

I used a potato masher to break up the cooked potatoes to a rustic, stew-like consistency.

There was a slight rosemary flavor from the rosemary sprig steeping in the broth, but I added another layer on top of the finished soup with this salt:

The salad was simply arugula, hearts of palm and big Spanish olives with olive oil and lemon juice.  (I can’t be bothered to make a vinaigrette on my anniversary.)

It worked.  So well in fact that I think we’ll eat this for our 9th anniversary.  We might actually make it to a restaurant for the big One Oh.

Rustic Potato Soup

5-6 strips of bacon, sliced crosswise into 1/2 pieces

1 onion

6 cups of diced potatoes, about 4 lbs (I used Yukon Gold)

1 sprig of rosemary

4 cups of chicken broth

3/4 cup coarsely grated cheese (I used Gruyère)

Cook the bacon over medium heat in a large Dutch oven until crispy and remove with a slotted spoon.  Reserve bacon.  Add diced onion to rendered bacon grease and cook until translucent.  Add potatoes, chicken broth and rosemary.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and then simmer until potatoes are cooked through.  Remove rosemary sprig with tongs.  Use a potato masher to break up the potatoes until you reach desired consistency.  (Or an immersion blender for a smoother consistency.)  Salt and pepper to taste.  Before serving, stir the cheese into the soup until melted.  Serve soup with reserved bacon, sour cream or plain Greek yogurt and chopped chives.

Paneed Chicken with Baby Kales and Roasted Beets

Have you seen this yet in the produce section?  We go through a lot of kale in our house.  Lately, I’ve been making salads with shredded Lacinato kale which is delicious but really needs to be made a couple of hours ahead so that the acid in the dressing can soften the leaves a bit.  I was pretty excited to find baby kales in the grocery store even though I know it’s probably not very PC to pluck baby kale.  The leaves are a little less tough than the mature variety but still hold up under dressing without wilting.

This seems to me to be the perfect fall salad green.  Especially with roast beets and really any other vegetable you have floating around in your crisper.  I put all of this together in salad with a ginger vinaigrette and  served it over our favorite “Chicken a la Ina.”  (You can barely see the chicken peeking out from under those greens.)  I love the way the beets color the dressing.  Plus, I think it’s pretty healthy.  -Andra

Paneed Chicken adapted from Ina Garten’s Parmesan Chicken recipe

4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon water

1 1/4 cups Panko bread crumbs

Unsalted butter

Olive oil

Pound the chicken breasts until they are 1/4-inch thick using either a meat mallet or a rolling pin.

Combine the flour, salt, and pepper on a dinner plate. On a second plate, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water. On a third plate, combine the Panko with salt and pepper.  Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip both sides into the egg mixture and then dredge both sides in the Panko mixture, pressing lightly.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan and cook 2 or 3 chicken breasts on medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown on both sides. Add more butter and oil and cook the rest of the chicken breasts.

To serve, place a chicken breast on a plate and cover with salad greens tossed in vinaigrette.

Ginger Vinaigrette                                                                                                                                                                                                                   I make my vinaigrette in the bottom of the wooden salad bowl that will serve the salad.  You could also put all of the ingredients into a jar (with a lid ) and shake the contents to emulsify everything together.

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon honey

3/4 cup of grapeseed oil or other lightly flavored oil

Whisk the first six ingredients together in the bottom of medium bowl.  Slowly drizzle the oil into the bowl while whisking.

Roasted Beets

Heat oven 425°.  Place beets on a rimmed baking sheets and bake for 40 minutes or until a knife easily pierces the beets.  Remove the beets from the oven and let cool.  When cool enough to handle, gently rub off the skins of the beets or use a small paring knife to peel the beets.  Slice into wedges and toss into a salad.

Pasta Puttanesca (a.k.a Slutty Pasta)

Now that I’m the mother of two young girls, I try to embrace the most innocent aspects of Halloween; the sweet girly costumes, the pumpkin crafts and the candy.  I know a time will come after the Jessie the Cowgirls and the Disney Princesses that girls their age will start to wear the “Slutty ____” costumes for Halloween.  (Slutty Nurse, Slutty Policewoman, Slutty Astronaut).  Hopefully, this will happen in college, when I’m not around to see it.

In the meantime, to fill the slutty void, we ate “Slutty Pasta” before Trick-or-Treating last night.  I really think Puttanesca has a bad reputation.  It’s supposedly named after Italian ladies of the night because of its ease to prepare (I assume after a hard night’s work).  I’ve always loved it because it’s the most savory, salty, spicy pasta on most menus and we almost always have the ingredients in the pantry.  I especially love it with shrimp, but last night I used a can of good tuna packed in olive oil.

Trick-or-Treating went fairly well.  We live in New Jersey and are so grateful for electricity. There was only one downside.  Not ONE Bit-O-Honey in my girl’s buckets.  Or pennies for that matter.

– Catherine

Pasta Puttanesca

1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes

1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped

1/4 cup capers, drained and rinsed

1 7-ounce can good tuna, packed in olive oil (or 1/2 lb shrimp or 1/2 can of anchovies*)

1 lb pasta, preferably spaghetti (although I used penne last night)

Sauté the onion in about 1/2 cup of olive oil over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant.  Add the olives, capers and canned tomatoes with their juice and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Use wooden spoon or a potato masher to roughly crush the tomatoes.  Add the tuna and continue to cook and stir over medium heat until tuna is heated through and incorporated.  Drain pasta and add to sauce and toss to combine.

*If using anchovies, add them before the onion and cook until they disintegrate in the hot oil before continuing.

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