Category Archives: leeks

Hamburger Soup

zippysoup

It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Soup is one of my favorite meals and since so many soups are quick to make, they are a  staple in my house. Filling, warming and satisfying soups make for the perfect dinner when paired with crusty bread and make even better leftovers for lunch the next day. And just about anything can be turned into a satisfying soup. This recipe, adapted from The Noble Pig has quickly become a favorite in my house where I liberally substitute the vegetables and even the ground meat depending upon what I have on hand. And thanks to the tangy and flavorful V-8, another favorite pantry staple, the broth is rich and flavorful without hours of cooking.

So if you are looking for a fast and tasty weeknight dinner idea, look no further than this soup. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.

HAMBURGER SOUP

1/4 pound pancetta, diced

2 pounds ground beef

1-1/2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced into 1 inch thick coins

1-1/2 cups celery, sliced into 1 inch pieces

1 leek, white and green parts only, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 cup frozen corn

4 cups beef broth

1 – 14 ounce can diced tomatoes

15 ounces V-8 vegetable juice

1 teaspoon ground oregano

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 pound small dry pasta

2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • Place a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and cook until browned, using a spoon to crumble the meat.
  • Drain off the fat.
  • Add the carrots, celery, leek, corn, broth, V8, garlic and oregano to the meat mixture.
  • Increase the temperature to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the temperature to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
  • Return the temperature to high, add the pasta to the pot and cook until the pasta is al dental,8-10 minutes depending upon the size of your pasta.
  • Stir in vinegar right before serving.

Serves 6-8

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French Chicken Noodle Soup

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Cooler weather means the onset of comfort food and what is more comforting than a steaming bowl of chicken noodle soup? But this soup, adapted from Cuisine At Home isn’t your ordinary chicken noodle soup. Made with a French twist, it is a sophisticated version of the soup I grew up on. Enhanced with brandy and apple cider, the broth is flavorful without being overpowering. Mellow flavored leeks replace the traditional onions with tarragon being the herb of choice. And of course you mustn’t forget the bacon. The vegetables are sautéed in bacon drippings and the entire bowl is topped with a sprinkling of crisp bacon. What’s not to like?

Serve the soup with warm buttermilk biscuits (which you can make while the soup is simmering) and you have a comforting dinner that will warm you inside and out.

FRENCH CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP

6 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

6 strips bacon, diced

2 cups sliced leeks

1 1/2 cups sliced carrots

1 1/2 cups sliced celery

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup brandy

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 1/2 cups apple cider

2 bay leaves

6 ounces dried egg noodles

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, minced

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Place the broth and chicken breasts in a large pot set over medium-high heat. Cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.
  • Remove the chicken from the pot and allow to cool. Reserve the broth.
  • When the chicken has cooled, use two forks to shred the meat into bite sized pieces. Set aside.
  • Add the bacon to a large soup pot set over medium-high heat. Cook the bacon until crisp.
  • Use a slotted spoon to drain the bacon onto a paper towel lined plate.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add the leeks, carrots, celery and garlic to the bacon drippings. Cover the pot and cook until the vegetables are tender crisp, about 10 minutes.
  • Uncover the pot and add the brandy to the vegetables, stirring to loosen any cooked on pieces. Cook until the brandy has evaporated.
  • Stir in the Dijon mustard then add in the reserved broth, the apple cider and the bay leaves.
  • Bring the soup to a boil over high heat.
  • Stir in the noodles, the diced apple and the shredded chicken. Cook until the noodles are tender.
  • Turn off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and tarragon and season with the salt and pepper.
  • Serve immediately topped with the crumbled bacon.

Serves 6

Spanakopita

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I love Greek food but outside of Greece I find that its quality is hit or miss. When we lived in Virginia one of my favorite annual events was the Greek Festival hosted by the local Greek community. It was right in our neighborhood so we were able to walk to it to enjoy the delicious foods that was all homemade. Here in Belgium the Greek community hosts a similar event each June and we always attend to enjoy the food, music and dancing. Of course nothing rivals the amazing Greek foods we’ve had when we’ve actually been in Greece. Whether on the islands or the far northern reaches of the country, the food from local tavernas has been the best I’ve ever eaten. It is classic, comforting and unpretentious.

Inevitably, whenever I have a really good Greek meal I come home with the intent of replicating the food myself. I’ve learned that the key to the best replications is to use genuine ingredients that actually come from Greece. Case in point is this spanakopita which I’ve adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s Mediterranean Harvest cookbook. Spanakopita is a classic Greek dish and is always my test of whether a restaurant is good. If the spanakopita is good chances are the other dishes are as well. With its flaky crust and generous dose of spinach, leeks and feta cheese, this version is just like the ones I’ve eaten in Greece.

SPANAKOPITA

2 1/2 pounds fresh spinach, rinsed, stemmed and minced

4 large leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing

1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, stemmed and chopped

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced

1/4 cup fresh dill, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups feta cheese, crumbled

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

12 sheets phyllo dough

1 egg white, lightly beaten

  • Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium high heat.
  • Add the spinach and saute, stirring regularly, until the leaves begin to wilt. This should take about 2 or 3 minutes.
  • Add the leeks and continue to saute, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly brush a 12 inch baking dish with olive oil. Set aside.
  • Place the spinach and leek mixture in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the parsley, rosemary, dill and thyme.
  • Add the eggs and feta cheese then season with the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir well until everything is combined.
  • Brushing olive oil between each sheet, layer 7 phyllo sheets in the prepared baking dish, placing them so that they overlap each other.
  • Scrape the filling onto the top sheet of phyllo then fold all of the sheets over the filling.
  • Layer with the remaining phyllo sheets, brushing with olive oil between each layer.
  • Stuff the edges of the phyllo into the edge of the dish.
  • Brush the top of the pie with the egg whites then using a sharp knife, cut 5 to 6 slits into the top of the spanakopita.
  • Place in the oven and bake until the top is golden brown, about 45 to 50 minutes.
  • Serve hot or at room temperature.

Serves 6

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The whole pie

Grilled Kielbasa & Vegetable Orzo Salad

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Here is a twist on a traditional pasta salad that I’ve adapted from Savory Simple. Grilled vegetables are the featured ingredients of this dish; I’ve used colorful bell peppers, fresh corn, leeks and two types of squash. A light grill gives them a slightly smoking and charred flavor without overpowering the dish. Kielbasa adds protein and additional flavor to the salad. And it is all built upon a bed of orzo. If you prefer you can use another small pasta. With the exception of the yellow and zucchini squash, the vegetables are all grilled whole so allow them to cool slightly before attempting to slice them.

The salad tastes best when eaten at room temperature so if you make it ahead of time—which you can easily do–simply allow it to sit outside of the refrigerator for half an hour before serving. The salad is substantial enough to be a meal unto itself on a hot summer evening or can liven up a buffet table. And since this is barbecue season, why not make a bowl of this salad for your next backyard event?

GRILLED KIELBASA & VEGETABLE ORZO SALAD

1½ cups orzo

2 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon kosher salt (to taste)

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 large green pepper

1 large yellow pepper

1 large red pepper

1 leek

1 yellow squash, sliced in half lengthwise

1 zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise

1 ear fresh corn on the cob

1 link kielbasa, or other Polish sausage

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the orzo according to package instructions and then drain.
  • Place the cooked orzo in a large bowl and toss with the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  • Preheat a grill to medium-high.
  • Using tongs to carefully place the whole vegetables (only the yellow squash and the zucchini will be cut up) and the kielbasa on the hot grill and then close the lid.
  • Grill for 4 minutes then using tongs, flip the vegetables and the kielbasa and continue cooking for an additional 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Remove everything from the grill and allow to cool for several minutes until it can be handled comfortably.
  • Slice the sausage thinly and add to the orzo.
  • Remove the stem and seeds from the top of the peppers, peel away the skin, then dice the roasted peppers.
  • Scrape the corn kernels off of the ear and add them to the salad.
  • Trim the end off of the leek and thinly slice the white part of the leek and add it to the salad.
  • Cut the yellow squash and zucchini into thin slices and add it to the salad as well.
  • Toss everything together, adjust the seasoning if necessary, and serve.

Serves 6-8

 

Leek & Bacon Quiche

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Quiche is probably one of the most versatile dishes around. It can be served for brunch, lunch or when paired with a crisp green salad, for dinner. It can be served hot, cold or at room temperature (which is my preferred serving temperature). And the fillings…..well the sky is the limit. The base is a simple combination of milk and eggs. From there you can go in a hundred different directions. My fillings will include whichever cheeses strike my fancy and whatever vegetables are in season. Meats are optional. So are herbs and spices. You really can’t go wrong.
This leek and bacon quiche has become a go to weeknight dinner for our family when time is limited yet a healthy sit-down dinner is a must. The combination of plenty of leeks and bacon make for a satisfying dish. I will bake it up earlier in the day then serve it at room temperature with the afore mentioned salad and dinner is good to go. And as an added bonus there are usually leftovers meaning you already have lunch made for the next day. What more could a busy family ask for?
LEEK & BACON QUICHE
2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
8 ounces diced bacon
2 cups finely sliced leeks
1 1/2 cups whole milk
5 eggs
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
pinch dried mustard powder
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Paprika
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Prepare the crust of your choice.  Roll out the crust to fit a 10 inch deep dish pie crust.
  • Evenly distribute the shredded cheese over the bottom of the pie crust. 
  • Fry the bacon until crispy in a medium sized skillet set over medium heat. Drain with a slotted spoon then sprinkle evenly over the cheese.
  • Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease from the skillet.
  • Add the leeks and saute until soft, about 4-5 minutes.
  • Add the leeks to the pie plate on top of the bacon.
  • Combine the milk, eggs, flour, dried mustard, thyme and salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Using a stick blender, blend the mixture until smooth and the flour is thoroughly incorporated into the liquids.
  • Pour the custard over the top of the leeks and bacon. Sprinkle with paprika.  
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes until a cake tester inserted into the center of the quiche is clean.  Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before slicing.
Serves: 6

 

Pancetta & Potato Leek Soup

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Thanksgiving is just days away so if you are anything like me you are busy cooking up a storm in preparation for the big day. But you (and your family) can’t wait until Thursday to eat; you need dinner tonight. This time of year I am all about easy and satisfying meals that can be made in minutes leaving me plenty of time to concentrate on the impending big dinner. Enter this creamy potato and leek soup that is topped with crispy pancetta.
I love how creamy this soup is and most surprising of all, there isn’t a drop of cream or milk in the entire recipe. The thick texture of the soup comes solely from the pureed potatoes and leeks. The pancetta is optional, if you prefer to make a vegetarian version of the soup, simply omit the pancetta. But my family loves pancetta so we like to top the soup with a healthy serving of the crispy meat. It makes the soup taste all that much richer and satisfying.
PANCETTA & POTATO LEEK SOUP
1/4 pound pancetta, diced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large leeks, white and green parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 large russt potatoes, peeled and diced
4 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
  • Fry the pancetta in a heavy soup pot set over medium-high heat. Stir the pancetta occasionally to keep it from sticking and make sure it is browned on all sides, approximately 6-8 minutes.
  • Remove the pancetta from the pan, drain on a plate lined with paper towels and set aside.
  • Add the butter to the pancetta drippings and heat until melted.
  • Add the leeks to the pan and stirring occasionally, cook for 8-10 minutes or until the leeks have softened.
  • Add the potatoes to the pot, cover and cook for 4-5 minutes until the potatoes begin to soften but not brown.
  • Add the chicken broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Thin with additional broth if the soup is too thick.
  • Season with the pepper.
  • Serve the soup in warmed bowls topped with the crispy pancetta and the minced chives.
Serves 4

Minestrone Soup

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Nothing satisfies on a cold day more than soup. Most weekends I will make a big pot of whatever strikes my fancy. I allow it to simmer on low all afternoon then we enjoy it with crusty bread for a Sunday night dinner. There are always leftovers which is perfect since soup tastes better the next day. I have yet to find a soup that I didn’t like but this minestrone is a soup that I absolutely love.

It is more of a method rather than an exact recipe; I will use whatever vegetables I have on hand or whatever looked good at the market that morning. I like to be heavy handed with the vegetables and go lighter on the pasta and beans but you could easily add more of the later if that is to your liking. Not only is this soup vegetarian but it is also low in sodium. Rather than using a pre-made broth, I simply add water as the soup base and allow the cooking vegetables to flavor the broth. The results? A rich, tasty and satisfying soup that everyone will love. Serve it with crusty French bread and dinner is served.

MINESTRONE SOUP

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, minced

1 leek, quartered and diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

1 small zucchini, diced

1 small eggplant, diced

1 cup Brussels sprouts, quartered

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed

1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 26-ounce can tomatoes, roughly chopped

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

3/4 cup small pasta (shells or elbow macaroni works well)

1 large handful fresh basil, chopped

Salt & pepper to taste

Grated parmesan cheese, to serve

  • Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot set over medium high heat.
  • When the oil shimmers, add the onion, leek, celery and carrots and stirring occasionally, cook until soft but not brown, 4-5 minutes.
  • Add in the zucchini, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, beans and canned tomatoes. Stir well.
  • Add enough water to the pot to cover the vegetables by 1 inch.
  • Bring the soup to a simmer then reduce the heat and cook uncovered until the vegetables are soft, 35-45 minutes.
  • Add in the oregano and thyme and season with salt and pepper.
  • At this point you can proceed to the next step or cover the pot, turn the temperature to the lowest setting and allow to sit until you are ready to proceed.
  • Return the temperature to medium-high.
  • Once the soup is boiling again, add the pasta, stir well and cook until the pasta is al dente, approximately 6-8 minutes.
  • Stir in the basil, adjust the seasonings and serve, topped with grated parmesan cheese.

Serves 6

 

 

 

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