Saturday, November 13, 2010

Zuppa Confessions with Cake

I have a confession- that sunset posted on my entry last week - was not my yard. I would love Lake Superior to be in my backyard (maybe... but not necessarily during the Gales of November - Lake Superior is a lake you must respect).
`
Paul and I are in agreement that if we did indeed have a lake to gaze upon from our window - we would do nothing but gaze upon said lake. In the a.m. we'd gaze with our morning coffee right until we switched to cocktails or wine in the evening and nothing would ever get done. So, we remain happy to have White Bear Lake three blocks away for when we need our "gaze-at-a-lake-fix."
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Below is my yard. Exactly as it looked this morning. We knew it was coming.

Sigh. If you live in the southern part of the country and post photos of your flowers from your yard, I may weep.


You can see why I needed to make soup. And not just any soup. The sort of soup that could go vegetarian - if you were in the mood. The sort of soup that could be waistline-happy brothy - if you were in that mood. Or just a tad creamy - which is not a bad alternative when the day is wintery and you want dinner to feel like a balm for the icy roads and chills.


There are so many variations to this Zuppa Toscana - I know because in my soup-questing life, I've tried them all. If you don't eat meat, omit the sausage and increase the onions, carrots and celery by a third. If you like your Tuscan bean soup brothy, leave out the evaporated milk. If you want more fat, use Italian sausage rather than turkey sausage in the soup. Substitute escarole or kale for the spinach. The important thing is to deliver a broth packed with flavor from aromatics (onions, carrots, celery and garlic) and herbs.



Zuppa Toscana Ingredients - serves 8 as a first course, 4 as an entrée
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onions (about one large onion)
1 cup chopped carrots (2-3 carrots)
1 cup chopped celery (2 celery stalks)
2-3 (or more) garlic cloves - minced
1 pound turkey sausage*
8 cups chicken broth
2 (or more) tablespoons dried Italian seasoning
2-14 oz cans cannellini beans, thoroughly rinsed (I used organic)**
1 bag baby spinach
1-14 oz can evaporated milk or evaporated skim milk (I used skim)

*Make your own turkey sausage: for each pound of ground turkey add: 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, 1-2 tablespoons Italian seasonings (I use a lot of seasoning), 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Mix well with turkey, cover and refrigerate at least one hour or up to a day.)

**Substitute dried beans (1/2 pound approximately equals 2-14 oz cans. Simply soak over night as directed on the package. Your beans will be firmer.)

This was so soul-satisfying, I think I'm in love. Zuppa Toscano and I shall live happily together. And it doesn't interfere with my marriage at all.
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Zuppa Toscana Preparation
In large stockpot over medium heat, heat olive oil. (Hot but not sizzling.)
Add onions, carrots and celery and toss to coat with oil. Reduce heat to medium low and cook till all is softened - stirring occasionally (7-8 minutes).
Add garlic, stirring for 30 seconds.
Add turkey sausage and stir - breaking up clumps. Cook till turkey is browned (another 7-8 minutes).
Add broth, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
Add beans and simmer uncovered for ten minutes.
If using, add evaporated milk and simmer for five minutes.
Add spinach and stir until just wilted - about two minutes.
Serve. Pass pepper mill around. If you did not use the evaporated milk, consider passing freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
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And then there was the cake. Someone in my home had a birthday. The day after I joined Weight Watchers. (It had to be.) And in the wonders of her new age, she had found a recipe in Cooking Light that she asked me to make.
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Chocolate Cake with Orange-Chocolate filling and Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze
(or in the spirit of this post - Chocolate Gaze)
How could I say no? And it was from Cooking Light....



It taunted me with it's lowfat lip. You know how some cakes are so pretty you proclaim, "It's a shame to cut into it." (But you do.) This richly dark cake proclaimed it was made to be eaten. It sang it. It heralded its edibility.


And we gobbled it. One my second day of Weight Watchers. I ate every moist, delicate crumb of my slice greedily.
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The cake soothed. The cake sated. Orange and chocolate - a little citrus, a depth of sweetness. For the rest of the evening, people sneaked down to the fridge in the basement to have a sliver.
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If you like dark chocolate spiked with orange and cake with a creamy-oozing layer topped with a glitzy glaze, find the recipe here. A word of advice - wherever it says "non-fat," substitute low-fat. Nobody else claimed to notice... but I could taste the non-fat. And deep inside I know - non-fat is not real food.

49 comments:

Proud Italian Cook said...

Zuppa Toscano here I come! I can do without the snow though....

Mister Meatball said...

Where to begin?

The zuppa: Looks very fine. Aided no doubt by the (or more) instructions next to the you-know-what.

The cake: Also fine. I am a big fan of the chocolocitrus method, yes.

The snow: Not so fine. Though in Maine it will visit shortly.

Ruth said...

Love all that flexibility with the soup. Looks like you've got just the right weather for it! And that gorgeous cake! Yes, methinks it's time for comfort food!

Wanda..... said...

The bowl, in which you served the Zuppa Toscano, was most perfect for it, Claudia! I actually make a similar soup with or without little pieces of ham!

With cake like this...snow becomes beautiful!!! Snow makes me crave Crusty Breads and Soup!!!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Wow. Look at your yard. No wonder you needed soup, which by the way looks delicious. But for real comfort, nothing does it for me like chocolate. Orange and chocolate seem to be a marriage made in heaven.

After living in the Poconos many years ago and it snowed in May that year I made my husband promise that I would never have to be cold again. He's kept his promise. I hope it warms up for you soon Claudia.
Sam

Choices said...

I heard about that snow storm. My brother was driving in it while he was talking to me. Soup is definitely warm and comforting when it is cold outside.
Keep warm.

Jeannie said...

I like the look of the soup and I like the look of the chocolate cake even more and I even like the look of the snow encrusted tree in your back yard! Maybe that's because I have never experienced snow in my life before:D

My Little Space said...

OMG, it's snowing already! Gosh, isn't it time just flies! I remember the first time I was here and it's also snowing. That creamy hearty soup and the cake are both perfect for the day. The snow just reminded me the time I had when I was in New Zealand many many years back. How I spent my time at Whakapapa ski mountain. It was something that I'll never forget.
Hope you're having a great day, Claudia.
Cheers, Kristy ((hugs))

Jen_from_NJ said...

Delicious soup and chocolate cake are perfect comfort foods for the first snow! I love how your soup is so adaptable - I have some kale that would be great in it!

Anncoo said...

No snow here but the weather is good and temperature is around 28C and I want the comforting and delicious soup. Looks so perfect!

Monet said...

My oh my! Those photographs are such a change from what we are seeing here in Austin. I must admit that I miss the cold! The soup and the cake look like perfect food to get through a cold day. Thank you for sharing. I hope your week is full of hope and joy.

Chow and Chatter said...

wow what a great soup wow thats a lot of snow already :-) love your blog Claudia

The Mom Chef said...

Your soup looks necessary with that weather out your window. How warming and comforting it is (and delicious looking). I'm sorry you have snow. If it makes you feel better, I'm in the south and have a fire in the fireplace. Of course, it's 66 degrees out and I just feel like a fire today, but we won't mention that.

(That's why I moved south from Chicago.)

http://foodconnections.blogspot.com said...

Oh and we've been having some unseasonably warm weather here, but the rain has come today and this recipe looks delightful. It looks quite easy to make vegetarian substitutions--to do this, would you suggest adding more vegetables or acutally using a meat substitute such as seitan for the meat?

Cake Duchess said...

Love your zuppa recipe. And that cake looks splendid! You have snow and now we are getting glorious cooler days in South Florida.I wouldn't mind a day of snow and a bowl of your zuppa;)

Claudia said...

Food Connections: When I make this vegetarian - I increase the vegetables and you can certainly play with fennel (although fennel will change the flavor - I love fennel)and celeriac as additions and more greens. With the herbs and aromatics, the broth is quite flavorful.

Beth said...

So sorry about the weather. It's too early for that! At least you compensated with the soup -- any soup using white beans is a winner. And I could never turn down a piece of chocolate and orange cake. It's a wonderful combination!

Amy said...

This looks like the perfect meal for yesterday! That snow was quite a shock lol...compared to the warm weather we were blessed with! Your cake sounds delicious!

Jean said...

That looks like a perfectly good, perfectly comforting bowl of soup to me. It may not be snowing where I am but this would still hit the spot.

tasteofbeirut said...

I would not complain; we endured the hottest summer ever, muggy, miserable and now we barely have our first "cool" day. I would love to see snow and watch the trees grow from bare to the first bud to full of bright green leaves! soup looks great and the cake too! At least you got your kitchen to make happy things.

Spicie Foodie said...

Oh my look at all that snow! But at least you have the delicious soup to warm up with and that chocolate cake to brighten your spirit:) They both look delicious.

Pegasuslegend said...

I would love to eat at this table, my favorite soup and chocolate cake are you kidding I would be forever your pesty neighbor. I love this soup, the cake is absolutely fabulous and you can keep the snow...although it looks pretty, I am glad I left that white stuff behind! xxxooo

Claudia said...

Are you sure you don't want some snow, Claudia? Because I can get it for you wholesale.

Sophie said...

Allready so much snow in this time of year??? waw!!!

Your comfort soup looks like a real winner,..so tasty looking too! And that chocolate ganached cake with filling looks huge, fantastic & lovely at the same time!

Dear Claudia, I just tagged you with 10 culinary questions!! Come over @ my blog & read all about them!

pigpigscorner said...

Snowing already?! Time really flies. The soup is perfect for such cold weather!

girlichef said...

I would say that DEFINITELY calls for soup. Delicious, creamy soup ;) ...and cake...just to get the courage to drive in the snow. YUM!

A SPICY PERSPECTIVE said...

Claudia~ both look so delicious, I don't know which I want to try first!
...Probably the cake!

Mary said...

That tree is very beautiful, but you'll get no argument from me as to the need for soup. Yours looks and sounds delicious and your dessert is in the "to die for" category. I hope all is well and that you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

Megan said...

Hi Claudia! You are now my official soup diva.... yes you are! This looks amazing and I would have cooked something hearty as well if we would have received that beautiful early arrival of snow!

Thanks for the photos and for the awesome soup recipe - on my menu this week already! xoxo Megan

P.S. I will try to be more up to date on my visits... I just have been bombarded with busy family and work life and not enough time for recipe and blog chatting!

Reeni said...

So funny - I was thinking of making this soup tonight! I definitely have to now! The cake looks heavenly - love that filling. I love the first snow!

Angie's Recipes said...

oh no...it's already so snowy! But that's a perfect time to enjoy a bowl of the heartwarming bean soup and after that a large luscious chocolate cake. Life is good!

theUngourmet said...

What a lovely soup for a chilly wintry day. I'm not ready for snow yet. Your cake looks scrumptious too!

MaryBeth said...

First off...the snow covered yard is so pretty. I make this soup also and simply love it and the cake after would be a fabulous end to a nice meal.

UrMomCooks said...

Ur soup looks divine... (I make one similar but have never added milk - looks like an interesting twist!) Hang in there weather-wise. Believe it or not, those of us in the south sometimes get a little jealous of the snow...

Foodessa said...

Winter Wonderland is always great that very first snowfall...because its pristinely clean and pretty. I can't believe that we haven't had ours (Montreal) yet!!!
Every time I read about you and your love (not Paul) your soups LOL...you remind me of myself. Every week I just fall in love with a great pot of soup simmering on the stove as the aromas waft through my home ;o) That tuscan soup looks delicious!

I'll be going to look at that chocolate cake and try to understand your little beef with the non-fat issue LOL.

Good luck with the weight watcher thing...and the Holidays won't be tempting at all. LOL

Have a fabulous week,
Claudia

5 Star Foodie said...

That is a lot of snow, wow! That soup looks definitely warming and perfect for the weather! Yummy chocolate cake too!

Kristen said...

What a winter wonderland! I am sure you will be sick of it before too long, but for now, the first snow....

I love your soup. I have a thing for creamy beany soups. Give me a crust of bread and a bowl of soup on a cold day and I am a happy girl.

janet said...

There is so much beauty in those snow covered trees. It is going to snow here this week, but just a few flurries. I think I am in the mood for some creamy bean soup now, thanks to your delicous looking photo!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Snow already!? Ack!! I am going to gaze upon the autumn colored leaves, that that still linger in the trees here, a little longer today before they disappear.

Claudia, your soup looks so warming and delicious and that chocolate orange cake so very moist and decadent!

Stay cozy!

Island Vittles said...

that soups looks so comforting I could almost bathe in it! Maybe not...I'll just make myself a batch instead. Theresa

Lori Lynn said...

Hi Claudia - I have to make that soup. Love how you give ideas for substitutions.

And thanks for your kind words on my blog. Best of luck with your weigh watcher program.
LL

Gera@SweetsFoodsBlog said...

I understand why you need this wonderful soup and the marvelous chocolate cake -- well this one if or all the year, huh?

All the best,

Gera

Juliana said...

Claudia, I love the pictures of the "Cold"...and very glad that I do not have to live it...but I am sure that your zuppa Toscana can keep you warm...it is sure a nice treat.

Katy ~ said...

Brrrr!!! I am shivering looking at all that snow you have already, knowing that the few flurries we have had will soon equal a real accumulation like yours. I can wait :)

And your soup looks like a delicious way to ward off the cold, so many good and healthy ingredients in it. YUM!!!

LOL, I swear I can taste the no-fat and low-fat in recipes as well.

denise @ quickies on the dinner table said...

No snow here, just super wet days and chilly evenings, but I'll grab any excuse I can get to have soup! Dinner today was soup again, and tomorrow or the day after, maybe Zuppa Toscano? ;)

LOVE orange and chocolate together. I would have sneaked to the fridge once or twice too......

Emily Malloy said...

Wonderful comforting, no matter the weather! Or whether... ;-)

Magic of Spice said...

I think the snow looks so beautiful...but then I do not have to live with it.
Love this soup and would be so easy to adjust for vegetarian, lovely :)

oysterCulture said...

You've given me a peak of what I can expect when I land in Minneapolis next week. Now I 'm hoping for a heaping bowl of zuppa - sounds like the perfect como

Barbara GF said...

Soup for the soul, Claudia, but you can keep the snow! We will be getting ours before too long, though. And that cake! Love the chocolate-citrus pairing. And the writing, as usual, a feast for the mind and soul.