We’re slowly springing out of the dreary days of winter.
Through the incessant rain and cold, there are gentle signs of spring’s emergence; this morning I noticed the tiny red buds of the magnolia tree across the street.
Our winter wasn’t as bad as it was in other places, it just felt like a long dark one; I’m ready for daffodils and cherry blossoms, and longer days as our clocks spring forward this weekend.
Meanwhile we’re enjoying the last bits of winter with the warm comforts of soup – that’s exactly what this mushroom tortellini and vegetable soup is, it’s a hearty comforting soup that warms the soul.
This type of soup usually starts with a text from my sister; she found dried mushroom filled tortellini at the Italian market thought of the classic Italian tortellini en brodo (in broth) but with chunks of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots, to add a bit of colour and vibrancy.
My sister and I try to get together and cook once a month, being a far better cook than I am, I always jump at the opportunity – she mostly does all the cooking and I get to reap the benefits – like this awesome soup.
We’ve been making soups like these all winter long, particularly for those gloomy rainy days, and there’s been quite a few of those days.
And the soups are always so tasty and filling and nutritious and warming. It literally melts the chills away.
And the best part is this soup is even better the next day and days after, just keep leftovers in the fridge and reheat before serving.
Mushroom Tortellini and Vegetable Soup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 small leek, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tomatoes, pureed
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 1 cup broccoli florets
- 1 cup cauliflower florets
- 1 cup dried mushroom tortellini
- 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
- 4 cups vegetable broth (low sodium/no sodium)
- Salt and cayenne pepper to taste
- Heat olive oil in a soup pot or large saucepan over medium heat
- Add onions, leeks and garlic and sautÃ© for 5 – 8 minutes, stirring often until onions are soft and translucent, and garlic is fragrant
- Add pureed tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes
- Add vegetable broth, increase heat slightly and bring soup to a gentle boil
- Add tortellini and bring the soup back to a gentle boil
- Add carrots, broccoli and cauliflower and cook for 2 minutes
- Reduce heat and let soup simmer for about 5 – 6 minutes longer until tortellini is al dente
- Add salt and pepper to taste during the last minute or so, stir and check seasoning
- Gently stir in parsley and ladle soup into bowls and garnish with more parsley
I think it bears repeating that I love the romance of love, it often times makes me wish I could fall in love repeatedly just for that delightful magical rush.
Perhaps that is what Valentine’s Day is, a reminder to celebrate the romance of love.
This year I thought about red themed desserts, and discovered Pinterest boards of adorable heart-shaped red and pink food and crafts.
And then I thought about flowers… of roses and anthuriums… bright in hues of red.
Somehow this pasta is what I saw; easy, light, tasty and fresh – so simple it’s magical.
It reminds me of simple things… early morning walks, dancing to your favourite songs, humble bouquets that gladden your heart and long quiet afternoons in bed.
Happy Valentine’s Day! May you find romance in the ordinary… Always.
Roasted Vegetables Pasta
- 1 large zucchini, diced into chunks
- 1 large carrot, diced ino chunks
- 1 large yellow bell pepper, diced into chunks
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Salt to taste
- 3 scallions (spring onions), chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (less or more as desired)
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
- 1 tablespoon herbes des Provence
- 1/2 pound (about 2 cups) of ditalini pasta (or elbow macaroni)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Crushed pistachios for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Combine zucchini, carrots and bell pepper in bowl
- Toss vegetables with I tablespoon olive oil and salt to taste
- Spread out in a single layer and roast in oven to 15 minutes
- Meanwhile, cook your pasta per package directions, and save 1/2 cup of the pasta water
- Heat the remaining olive oil in the large saucepan or skillet over medium heat
- Add spring onions and sautÃ© for a minute
- Stir in garlic and crushed pepper, and cook for another minute
- Add tomatoes and herbes des Provence and pasta water and let it cook, stirring occasionally for another minute or so
- Add the roasted vegetables and pasta and toss to coat
- Check seasoning and add more salt if desired
- Serve with freshly ground black pepper and crushed pistachios
On the plane ride home, I started making plans for recreating some of the faboulous meals I’d had on my vacation – Ottolenghi’s basmati and wild rice salad, the appeltaart from the Old Church cafÃ© in Amsterdam and the Moutabal I ate atop the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris; I was going to make them all… as soon as we landed.
And then I got home and got sick; a lingering cold and melancholy, and then the thick fog came, eerie and haunting, covering the city for days… like a setting for some mystical novel.
Feeling poorly and cold and forlorn in ‘perpetual fog city’ put a damper on my desire to recreate cheery meals – instead, I wanted soup… lots of warm, thick, soothing and filling soups.
A hearty bowl of soup seemed more suitable for the mood, and this slow cooker lentil soup is just the ideal soup for the occasion; it’s brothy and filling with chunks of vegetables, and so, so easy to make.
It’s probably the very first soup I think of when the temperature drops, and the trees start turning colour and shedding.
And because it’s easy, adaptable and oh so deliciously comforting, I usually make it a few times throughout the colder months.
Sometimes I sautÃ© the vegetables first before they go in the slow cooker, by all means do that if you have time – like I said, this recipe is very versatile – you can also add your favourites… like cubed potatoes or sweet potatoes, other root vegetables, rice, quinoa, chopped apples… etc.
Slow Cooker Lentil Soup
- 2 cups of dried green lentils, washed and drained
- 2 leeks, trimmed and sliced
- 3 carrots, sliced
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 – 7 cups of vegetable broth
- 1 serrano pepper (or less/more), finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon salt, or (less/more) to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or (less/more) to taste
- Handful chopped cilantro
- Put lentils in the bowl of your slow cooker
- Add leeks, carrots, onions, garlic and tomato paste
- Add olive oil and vegetable broth, and stir
- Add serrano pepper and minced garlic
- Add oregano, basil, parsley, thyme, and rosemary
- Cover and cook at medium-low for 4 hours, stir soup two hours into cooking
- Add the salt and black pepper after 4 hours, and cook for another 1 – 2 hours
- Taste and adjust the seasoning, and check the lentils, they should be tender
- Ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve hot
Summer is in full swing!
We’re in that sweet phase where we don’t check the weather forecast in the morning anymore to decide what to wear, or wonder if it’ll rain. It’s like we’re in some perpetually sunny tropical locale.
We made fresh tomato salsa over the week; chopped up juicy red tomatoes, tasty farm fresh jalapeno peppers, zesty onions, and generous heaps of deep green cilantro, and juiced lemons as succulent and bright as the afternoon sun that streams through our tiny kitchen.
Salsa must be synonymous with summer in some places, I’m sure – how can it not be? It’s a beautiful way to use up those fresh abundant summer tomatoes, it’s refreshing and cheerful and doesn’t require turning on the stove – there’s enough heat in the peppers.
We prefer our salsa chunky, scooped over rice and beans or quinoa – but in these summer months we usually go for some sturdy tortilla chips, and let them do the scooping.
We made enough salsa to last a while, which I’ve been eating with chips practically every day this week, because it feels scrumptiously right, and it’s easygoing and vibrant, like a summer afternoon.
Fresh Tomato Salsa
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes (about 2 – 3 medium-sized), seeded and chopped
- 3/4 cups of chopped red onions
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
- 2 – 3 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Juice of 1 lemon, or more
- Salt, to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
- In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, onions, cilantro and peppers
- Add lemon juice, mix and season with salt to taste
- Drizzle olive oil over salsa
- Serve garnished with cilantro or chill and use within 2 – 3 days
I’m drawn to okra… there’s a certain pull (get it?). It’s a little strange, it’s not like I particularly liked okra when I was younger, yet these days I get them whenever I see them at the store.
I think it might be because it reminds me of when I was little and the foods I ate.
Sometimes I wish my mom still made her sumptuous okra stews and soups, or that I could make them.
I work the okra I bring home into easy and practical dishes, mostly by roasting them with other vegetables and or adding them to some beans of some sort.
This roasted potatoes, okra and broccoli came about out of convenience, potatoes and broccoli were what I had to go with the okra I’d brought from the market – I’m glad they came together, they make a good medley; I’ve made several times since that first time.
I roast the potatoes separately since it takes a little longer to bake, those beautiful new potatoes that show up this time of year is perfect for this recipe, I roast them with carrots and a bit of rosemary and thyme – it’s quick and simple, and tastes great.
The okra and broccoli, I roast with onions and bell peppers, combine them with the potatoes when done and finish off with slow roasted tomatoes and chickpeas. Slow roasted tomatoes make everything taste better, and the chickpea is for protein.
I really, really like these simple roasted vegetables combinations, I’ve made about a million variations of them, and I always say that I’d happily eat them everyday if I couldn’t have any other food, but adding okra to the mix… that is pretty special!
Roasted Potatoes, Okra and Broccoli
- 2 – 3 baking potatoes, scrubbed and cut into cubes
- 3 – 4 carrots, cubed
- 1 small head of broccoli, cut into florets
- 7 – 10 fresh okra fingers, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
- 1 red onion, cut into large chunks
- 1 bell pepper, cut into large chunks
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon pepper flakes, divided
- 1 teaspoon cumin, divided
- 1 tablespoon thyme, divided
- 1 tablespoon rosemary, divided
- 2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1/4 cup slow roasted tomatoes (or 2 – 3 tablespoons chopped sundried tomatoes)
- 1/2 – 1 cup cooked chickpeas
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Toasted pecans, chopped
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly greased aluminum foil
- In a large bowl, combine potatoes, carrots, and add half of pepper flakes, cumin, thyme and rosemary
- Drizzle with about 1 – 11/2 tablespoons of olive oil (or as much as you need)
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and mix to coat evenly
- Spread potatoes in a single layer on the parchment lined baking sheet
- Roast for 20 – 25 minutes, turn potatoes over halfway through and cook until they’re baked through, crispy and golden
- When done, transfer into a large bowl and set aside
- Using the first bowl from before, combine the broccoli, okra, onions and bell peppers
- Add the remaining pepper flakes, cumin, thyme and rosemary and mix
- Add the rest of the olive oil and salt, and mix well to coat
- Spread vegetables evenly on the baking sheet
- Roast in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes, until vegetables are tender and caramelized
- Add the vegetables to the bowl with the potatoes and toss
- Mix in the slow roasted tomatoes and chickpeas immediately
- Serve topped with some chopped pecans and freshly ground pepper