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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Tortillini soup with vegetables

Record lows are expected in Georgia this week.  My first thought is warming soup.  Trying to keep on a budget after the holidays, I decided to use most of what I already had in the house.  Being that snow/ice is predicted for Georgia, I had to make a trip to the grocery store for something. I think it's an unwritten law in Georgia to get milk (which I only use for coffee) and bread. Ha!  I didn't purchase either. Coffee is my main concern for a snow day!   I had planned on making spaghetti with vegetables, but after I returned home I decided that soup would be more warming.  I usually don't measure anything when I make soup, but I do remember all of the ingredients and how much I added. 

Tortellini soup with vegetables

1 32 oz container of vegetable broth (Beef or Chicken would work too) Of course, homemade broth is best but I didn't have any!
1 Onion diced
3 yellow squash, cut in chunks  I purchase the little tender ones
1 thin zucchini, cut in chunks
1 fresh tomato - large beefsteak
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound sliced mushrooms
1 clove garlic
basil, parsley, and oregano to your taste (I don't measure, but probably 1 tsp each)
Frozen package of cheese filled tortellini
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
red pepper flakes and lemon pepper to taste

Cook the onions and mushrooms in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil until onion is tender.
Add the garlic (minced). and heat just a little, but don't brown it.  Add squash, zucchini,  broth, seasonings, and tomato paste and cook until veggies are almost tender. I don't like them over cooked.  In a separate pot, cook the tortellini as directed on the package.  Go ahead and cook all of it, you can always have a pasta salad the next day with the ones you don't use.  Also, you can make antipasti sticks with tortellini, mozzarella cubes, cherry tomato, black olive, salami chunks and marinated mushrooms put on a skewer.  Serve with Italian dressing.  That's for another blog post, but just thought I'd mention it in case I forget.   After the pasta is cooked, add as much as you desire to the vegetables.  I also added some of the pasta water to the soup.  It all depends on how much pasta you add, and how thick you like your soup.  Use your own judgement.

Serve in a bowl with freshly shredded Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, and lemon pepper.  I would have put artichoke hearts in the soup too, but I didn't think of that when I was at the store. Next time, that will be an addition to the soup.  Serve with garlic toast, and a nice green salad.  I used the cheese filled tortillini, but I bet the other fillings would be just as delicious.



Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Guest for Dinner

My eldest son called and asked if I could make a Greek dinner. It's always a pleasure to cook, but especially to cook for someone else!  My son's coworker was here from China. She goes by Tiffany, but her Chinese name is lovely as well.  A thousand thoughts rush through my head.  I don't imagine that many of the Greek foods are commonly eaten in China. I would not think that salad is eaten at all as I've never seen it in our Chinese American restaurants. We all know that most of the restaurants are not truly authentic unless one visits certain areas of Atlanta. Brad said he wanted to take her to one of our Chinese restaurants.

He told me what he wanted me to make: spanikopita (spinach filled filo triangles), lamb, green beans and potatoes.  Salad and crusty bread are "givens" in a Greek meal.  Lamb is one of those foods that you either like or don't like.  I didn't want to take any chances so I made chicken in addition to the lamb.  The aromas in the house always bring back a flood of memories of my childhood.  My mother made the best lamb albeit it was well done as customary in those days.  Plus, my mom did not eat lamb, so she could not understand us wanting it more rare. Oh the horror on her face as we would eat a rare steak...That's for another blog post though.  I still giggle at the memory.  We grew up eating lamb well done which was fine by me. My lamb this evening had a hint of pink which made it delicious. I also made chicken and potatoes with lemon, butter, olive oil, garlic and oregano.

For appetizers I decided to have hummus with pita points and stuffed grape leaves.  She was willing to try everything and I thoroughly enjoyed watching her taste and eat everything that I prepared.  Seeing a big platter of lamb and sliced chicken in the center of the table is not something really done in China.  Meat is more of an accent with the vegetables taking over the show.  Although Greeks do eat a lot of vegetables with their foods, the chicken or beef are a large part of the presentation.

While getting everything ready, we were standing in the kitchen talking. I want to learn some Chinese and the lessons begin.  I don't remember how to count to 10, but I do remember that a common French word said twice is NOT very nice in Chinese.  No, I won't forget that! I use word association to remember a few of the words.  We had several good laughs with my attempts at the language and my word association and useage during our conversations of a few words.  She was patient with me though and gave me a compliment on one or two words.  I will admit that I am quite impressed with Brad's language skills. Watching her write was quite fascinating.

She had fun looking at all of my kitchen gadgets that were in my utensil holders. Brad told her of my adventures of eating with chopsticks. I would have to carry a fork with me in China. Seriously, I do try to use chop sticks, but it takes me forever to eat. I showed her my wooden pincer for toast and told her that was my chopstick. She knew it was for toast!  The potato masher is kind of hard to explain when they do not eat mashed potatoes in China.  My egg slicer was in a drawer as was the round metal kabob holder.   Kitchen is definitely the center of my home. We never sat in the den, but stayed in the kitchen.  She was looking at my fruit stand on the counter and picked up the avocado. She had never seen one and thought it might be a pear.  Avocado was then added to the salad.

She apparently is not used to eating all of the sour things that are so common in Greek cooking.  Lemon on the domathes, the vinegary pepperocini, and the vinegar and oil on salad, not to mention on the lamb, potatoes, and chicken!! I opted to leave out the lemon on the salad as it was so prevalent in everything. They were talking about the foods in China and I said that I probably would not eat frog as I've had it before and I was not impressed.  I then said I would eat chicken which received a "NO" as did the shrimp and fish (we are so spoiled by filets without bones).  Apparently Brad received a serving of shrimp that was left with head, legs, tail, etc... No problem, I can just pull off the legs messy sauce and all.  I know that I would enjoy tons of tea in China as I love hot tea. Noodle soup for breakfast also sound delicious.  I also know that in an emergency for something American, I can always get a Coke.  That would be a rare occasion as I believe in the motto: "When in Rome....."   I can't wait to share the coke with my dad.  If there is one person in the world besides me that appreciates coke, it's dad.  I will keep the bottle forever though.

She said that her dad is a chef.  I would like to learn more about that as the life of a chef fascinates me. I don't think I have the stamina to be a chef now though perhaps when I was 20.   We spend a lot of the time talking about foods, vocabulary, and customs in general.  She was a pleasure to have as a guest in our home. Anytime she is working at the Alpharetta based company in the future, she is welcome to share a dinner with us.  Next time, it may be Tex-Mex.  We did not have time for dessert as it was getting late and we were quite full from the meal.  The dessert was key lime pie.  It could have been Lemon Meringue! Next time, I will make Greek yogurt cake or something not so tart.

I hope that on her long flight back to China today, she will have a smile or giggle about our evening.  Brad sent me a text this morning stating that she liked the food, but especially liked the spanikopita.  That made this mama very happy.

Labels

Ingredients I must have in my kitchen (It's a long list, but I try and have these items on hand)

  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Cheese
  • Cumin
  • Curry
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh Bread
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Greek Oregano
  • Kalamata Olives
  • Lemon ( At least 3 or 4 ALWAYS)
  • Peppers (Wax, Jalapeno, banana)
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Regular Olive Oil
  • Rice
  • Salad Ingredients
  • Sea Salt
  • Spanish Olives
  • White Balsamic Vinegar

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