So – what I’m trying to say is I CAN cook, I LOVE cooking – but sometimes I am tired – or life is busy – or there’s “nothing” in the house, so I don’t feel like cooking. Tonight was one of those nights. In an earlier conversation I remembered Dr. Esq. mentioning he had today off from the ER – with no plans. As I left the office I called him, “Hey! You awake?”
“Just got up”, came the mumbled reply. “Headed home from the ER around 5:30 this morning. Guess I was really tired. I laid down around 8:30 – and am just now ‘coming to’, he told me.
“Great! You can take me to dinner and tell me about your holidays!”
“Oh, yeah, that’s a good idea. I’m hungry … what kind of time frame do you have in mind, Mit?”
“Well, it’s 5:40 - as long as you can be here by 7 or 7:30, I think it will work just fine. But I am NOT going to eat at 8:00 pm tonight.”
We agreed – 7:30 would give him time to run – shower – and get to my house. Of course, he called at 6:30 to say he’d JUST found his “cold weather” running gear – and so he wasn’t going to make it. Which was fine – I totally understand. And I COULD have said, “No – it’s fine, whenever you get here”, but I didn’t want to be out that late. You know … the whole gym thing at 5:15 am.
So … WHAT to do about dinner? Nothing was defrosted. I wasn’t ABOUT to run to the store. I refused to spend money … so – “make due” was the theme. What did I have? I have almost every shape of pasta known to man – but no veggies. Hmm – well I did have a Vidalia onion, button mushrooms, and garlic. Digging around I realized I had some fresh rosemary – plus the Italian Parsley from the New Year and Half & Half for the coffee I never made. I found a recipe for baked ziti – but it looked like too much time, so I modified it.
I diced and sautéed the onions in olive oil/butter. Added the sliced mushrooms – and rendered them. The recipe I was modifying called for adding white wine and beef broth – along with Hot Italian sausage. I had none of those ingredients. I didn’t care about the meat – I DID have some champagne and some left over veggie broth. I decided to add about ¼ cup of the broth – and reduce to nothing. Then I added the chopped garlic – a little more broth – and reduced again. I dumped whole wheat rigatoni into the boiling pasta water – and then added a little more broth and minced rosemary to the garlic, mushrooms, and onions.
I debated for a long time about the champagne. But decided if I opened it – I’d drink it. And I already had a red going – so I abandoned that idea. I added the Half and Half and some fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and kosher salt. I reduced ‘till thick.
It was “good” … but something was missing. I didn’t think the Italian Parsley was going to “brighten” the dish enough – and as I searched my mind – I recalled the original recipe had crushed tomatoes in it. But it was too late to add those now … and then I had it!!! Tomato paste! (the kind out of a tube, which I am in deep lust with)
So I added a little – a little more Half and Half – and then topped the drained pasta with the sauce – added the minced parsley … it was … WONDERFUL! (probably better than where we’d have gone out to eat anyway). And here I thought I had "nothing to cook". Shesh!Dilly – here’s the soup! I’m sure you can sub veggie stock for the chicken – and be fine.
Sweet Potato, Chipotle, and Apple Soup
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus 1 cup for frying
1/2 medium white onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
2 Gala apples—peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 celery rib, thinly sliced crosswise
1 3/4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 quart chicken stock or low-sodium broth
3 cups water
1 small canned chipotle in adobo sauce, seeded and minced
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 yellow corn tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch strips
In a medium soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook over low heat, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the apples and celery and cook for 5 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and water and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer over low heat until the fruit and vegetables are very tender, about 45 minutes. Stir in the chipotle.
Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Season with salt and white pepper and return to the pot.
In a small bowl, mix the cinnamon and sugar with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Heat the remaining 1 cup of oil in a medium skillet. Add the tortilla strips and fry over high heat, stirring, until crisp and golden, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Serve the soup in shallow bowls and garnish with the fried tortilla strips.