Monday, October 10, 2005

Step Into The Comfort Zone


Things were pitiful around our household this weekend. I woke up on Saturday feeling like death, and the rest of the family began dropping like flies by Saturday night. It is a given that if I get sick, and of course need rest, that Odd Toddler will also get sick and will need to be comforted all night. He and I slept head to toe on the sofa for the past two nights, snuggled tight so that I could hand him his sippy cup every time he coughed. I am exhausted, and still feel like death. Surely this will be over soon...

The weather cooperated with us all weekend. On Sunday it stayed gray and cool outside all day, as if it could feel our pain. We appreciated the downtime. The foodblog book I mentioned recently, Julie and Julia, arrived on Friday, just in time for the sickness and weather-imposed exile from our endless list of projects. The book, as it turns out, is everything I had hoped it would be and more. The author is foul-mouthed, irreverant and hopelessly liberal, and I love her. I am trying not to read the book too quickly though. I would hate for it to end too soon.

As it would happen, I had just the recipe to make us all feel better. The previous weekend, in the midst of Sunday afternoon football hell, The Carnivore went outside to call his father (to have their weekly rehash of all the Saturday college football games). I snagged the remote, lowered the volume by about 15 decibels, and turned the channel with what turned out to be amazing timing. The Food Network resident hottie was on, chopping up zucchini and draining a can of artichoke hearts. I was in love before I even knew what she was making. Lucky for me, she was cooking an Italian Vegetable Soup with Phyllo Croutons. Heaven on earth. I ran upstairs immediately to download the recipe from their website.

The soup, since it looked amazingly simple to make, was put on our menu for Monday night's dinner, and a much more complex dinner was planned for Saturday night. In our sickness however, I took the pen to the menu and made some adjustments so that the soup could comfort us on Saturday evening. 'Twas a stroke of genius. Not only were the soup and the croutons both insanely simple to make, but they tasted divine. And nothing hits the spot like a flavorful, healthy and light soup on a weekend like we were having. I tripled the crouton recipe and was grateful (we always fight over the last few crunchy noodle-things when we have egg drop soup so I knew better to begin with here). Next time though, I will also add more noodles to the soup, and will cut the recipe by half. There is just no need to eat the same thing for three nights in a row (which is what we have to do with this mongo amount of soup). Below is my ever-so-slightly adapted and halved version.

To my delight, food and the preparation of it, appears to be as comforting to Odd Toddler as it is to me. He slept with one of my measuring spoons clutched tightly in his hands a night or so ago. And Sunday morning, while watching old cartoons with me, he brushed his hair with my basting brush. I am so proud.

*****

ITALIAN VEGETABLE SOUP (adapted from Everyday Italian, serves 6)
  • 1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 leek (white and pale green parts only), chopped
  • 1 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 zucchini, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 (13 3/4 oz) can quartered artichoke hearts packed in water, drained
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 Tbs chopped fresh thyme leaves (I didn't have fresh thyme and so used 1/2 this amount of the dried herb)
  • 4 oz dried whole-wheat wide egg noodles
  • Freshly grated Parmesan
  1. Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add the leeks and saute until translucent, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and saute until tender, about 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in the zucchini and artichokes. Season with salt & pepper.
  5. Saute until the zucchini are tender, about 10 minutes.
  6. Add the broth and the thyme and cook for 2 minutes.
  7. Cover the pot and bring the soup to a simmer.
  8. Decrease the heat to just keep the simmer going, and cook, covered until the flavors develop, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.
  9. Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the noodles and cook until al dente, about 5 minutes.
  10. Serve with parmesan and phyllo croutons.

PHYLLO CROUTONS

  • 6 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
  • 3 Tbs butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  1. Stack the phyllo sheets on a cutting board and roll up into a cylinder.
  2. Cut the rolled stacked sheets crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide sections.
  3. Unroll the sections and toss into a large bowl to separate the strips.
  4. Gradually drizzle the butter over the phyllo, tossing constantly to coat. The strips might break up into smaller pieces).
  5. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the phyllo and toss gently to coat.
  6. Arrange the phyllo mixture evenly over a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.
  7. Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, until golden and crisp.
  8. Cool the phyllo, and then coarsely break it apart.

1 comment:

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