How about skipping the restaurants and making this Valentine’s Day extra cozy with a dinner date at home?Read More
This post was sponsored by Cost Plus World Market . I feel delighted and privileged to be able to work with brands that I genuinely love. Thank you so much for continuing to support my passions and efforts by being here!
It is Monday morning - the perfect opportunity to set some goals for ourselves. Simple, attainable goals that will feel as easy to meet as they are to make. Goal #1: Do not try to get out of brushing your teeth before work by chewing gum in the car. We are better than that. Well, we want to be better than that. Goal #2: Set a healthy precedence for the rest of the week by making yourself a proper dinner. Popcorn does not count.
We are making an after-work soup. No defrosting chicken before heading off to work, or pulling out the slow cooker. This soup will be ready, start to finish, in about forty-five minutes. Exactly what Monday requested - she likes things nice and easy.
Some of you may be hyperventilating at the sight of squash, but rest assured that I still have a few summery treats in store for you that I will be sharing during the coming weeks. I am just slowly fading back into the realm of plaid button-ups and mugs of cider. You knew it was coming, I cannot apologize.
If you need to hang on to burgers and potato salad for a couple more weeks I definitely understand, but be sure to bookmark this one for later on because you do not want to miss out.
I went to my local Cost Plus World Market store in Williamsburg, Virginia last week and I am in love with their modern take on fall decorations and entertaining essentials for this year. I am envisioning a tablescape consisting of blue and white china, lots of gold accents (always), and miniature white pumpkins. Eeeep! I cannot wait.
Now, let's talk about this soup.
This was the first time in my life that I had ever used dried mushrooms. While I definitely prefer the texture of fresh mushrooms, if you have a difficult time finding more exotic varieties in your area, this is a great option for you.
What I discovered about dried mushrooms, and what convinced me to add them to my pantry staple list, is that they make a fantastically flavorful broth. I am really excited about this, so bear with me. This is going to be my new secret weapon for a number of reasons.
I have encountered quite a few eaters in my time that are strongly opposed to mushrooms (ahem, I married one). I take issue with this because mushrooms lend such incredible notes of complexity that can compliment meat, or add meaty notes to an otherwise vegetarian dish, such as this soup.
Enter, dried mushrooms. By adding only the mushroom broth, or more accurately, mushroom “tea,” all texture aversions are averted while umami is maintained. One might call this a “win win situation.”
Of course, if you enjoy the texture of the shrooms, you can certainly keep them in the soup for a double dose of mushroom magic. I would generally opt for a combination of mushroom broth and fresh mushrooms.
The mushroom broth works wonderfully in this soup. Its complexity gives the simple vegetable broth base the effect of a stew that has been simmering all day, without nearly the time investment. I plan on incorporating this newfound mushroom "tea" into my roasts and stews this winter. Kitchen cheat codes right here.
Brilliant as it is, mushroom broth is not our sole secret. To further enhance the depth and richness of an otherwise stodgy vegetable broth, we are adding a parmesan rind.
That rubber-like outer crust of parmesan that you would typically toss in the garbage brings an entirely new salty layer to our broth. This trick can be used in a variety of soups to bring added depth and flavor, so save those rinds!
Let’s address the vegetarian aspects. I know a few of you may be panicking because this is the fourth vegetarian recipe I have shared in a week. I still crave steaks at weird hours of the night, so you may calm your worries because I am far from converting. However, even the carnivore in me can appreciate a hearty vegetable-based meal now and then.
This soup is so rich and robust that no one will be missing the meat.
And, if you are feeling some extra carbs, toast up a sliced baguette with some walnut oil and parmesan. The walnut oil gives the crostini a lovely nuttiness.
You’ve definitely got this Monday, and even if it ends up being one of “those days,” at least we can come home to an easy dinner, right?
As we slip into the most wonderful season, I would love to hear from you what you are looking to add to your fall recipe arsenals, so please send some comments, messages, or requests my way! Over the next week or two, I’ll be putting together a full fall inspiration list and I would love to tailor it to your needs/wishes/cravings.
Butternut Tortellini Mushroom Stew
for the stew
- 1.5 ounces dried mushrooms*
- 2 cups water, room temperature
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 medium shallots
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large parmesan rind (from about 1/2 lbs
- 1 lb butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 60 ounces vegetable broth, divided
- 4 sage leaves, roughly chopped
- 8 ounces dried cheese tortellini
- 3 ounces (roughly two large handfuls) baby spinach
*Cook's Note: If you are not a fan of mushroom texture, you may wish to use only the mushroom broth in this recipe and discard the dried mushrooms after they have served their purpose. However, if you enjoy the texture, feel free to leave them in, or add 2 cups of fresh, sliced cremini mushrooms to the pan along with the shallots, and sauté until they begin to brown. They will not substitute the broth, but will work in combination with it to achieve both the wonderful savory flavor, and give you a more familiar mushroom texture.
Place dried mushrooms in a large measuring cup and cover with water, pressing down so that all the mushrooms are submerged. Allow to soften while you prepare the soup - this will likely take about thirty minutes.
In the meantime, place a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat and melt the butter. Add shallots and kosher salt and cook until just golden brown. (If you are using fresh mushrooms, you will also add them at this point.) Add parmesan rind and squash to the pan and cover with 32 ounces of the vegetable broth.
Increase heat to medium high and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 8-10 minutes, until the squash has just begun to soften. While the soup simmers, attend to the mushrooms.
Drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid in a clean container. If using the whole mushrooms, thoroughly rinse them with cold water and pat with a paper towel to remove as much liquid as possible (this may take several towels). Give them a rough chop. Strain the reserved "broth" through a fine mesh strainer lined with paper towels or a coffee filter.
To the soup, add the chopped sage, tortellini, remaining vegetable broth, mushrooms (if using), and 1/2 cup of the mushroom broth. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 12-15 minutes, until the tortellini is cooked through. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the crostini.
Remove the pot from the heat and add spinach. Stir for several minutes, until the spinach has just wilted. Serve immediately with crostini. Enjoy!!
for the crostini
- one small ciabatta loaf, sliced diagonally
- 1/4 cup roasted walnut oil
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set oven on the broiler setting.
Lay the sliced ciabatta out onto the prepared sheet pan and brush with walnut oil. Cover with freshly ground black pepper and sprinkle each toast with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of grated parmesan.
Place under the broiler for about 3 minutes; until golden and toasted. Serve alongside warm stew. Enjoy!
Cook's Note: This stew is best served as soon as possible as it will begin to thicken as it sits due to the starchy nature of the squash and pasta.
SHOP THIS POST!
dried bistro blend mushrooms // gold serving spoon // marble ceramic canisters // blue and white reactive glaze bowls // white marble salt cellar // geo print kitchen towel // roasted walnut oil // gold wave soup spoons // gray marbled linen napkins // acacia wood bark tray // blue striped napkin // tortellini with cheese
I never thought this day would come.
I never thought that I - a stubborn believer that the words "homemade" and "pizza" should never be juxtapose - would be sharing a recipe for just that.
I cannot give you a true percentage, but if I had to guess, I would wager that at least 85 percent of my dates with Mr. Pedantic have involved pizza.
I had tasted very few good pizzas as a child. My parents were never pizza fanatics, so most of my exposure had been through delivery pizza, or, though I cringe to admit it, frozen pizza. *insert the sound of a thousand Italian hearts breaking*
It was only when I tasted a true, brick-oven-baked New York pizza that the romance began. From then on, my love for the tri-fold delicacy only increased.
I eventually became acquainted with the best family-owned shops in my area, those that I could call upon when the cravings demanded. I never really considered homemade pizza because I did not believe that it could compare with those cooked in commercial ovens. After all, my entire relationship with pizza had stemmed from that hallowed brick-oven distinction. Without a brick oven, or some version of it, how could one hope to create a proper pie?
My stance had been firm for years. Pizza was something I bought from a trusted establishment, and I would not attempt to improve upon it. It was one of the very few things I had left alone.
It was not until I was gifted this pizza stone that I decided to give homemade pizza a chance. My hopes were far from high, my knowledge little, but I was now armed with the perfect weapon and my very own "pizza oven."
Here is why I fell in love with this pizza stone and, coincidentally, homemade pizza.
What those beloved commercial brick ovens offer is an exceptionally hot surface. Not just a hot oven, but a hot surface, which translates to a very crisp bottom crust that will stand up to the moisture of the sauce and the weight of our various cheeses. I firmly believe that if you cannot pick up the slice of pizza without it falling apart, the crust is shoddy. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
A pizza stone gives the cook the chance to recreate that ultimate brick-oven atmosphere by pre-heating the stone. The stone is heated in a 500 degree oven before we begin pizza construction. By the time we have layered our toppings, the bottom of the crust has already baked.
My first attempt was astounding enough to win my favor, but after a great many rounds of taste-testing, I found a couple of ways to improve upon the humble homemade pies.
Here’s what I have learned about pizza craft.
THE CRUST - the three b’s
- Bread flour. I found that replacing a third of the all-purpose flour in my original recipe with bread flour produced a chewier crust that adds a heartiness to the pizza itself.
- Be generous with the fat. Some crust recipes ignore a fat component all together, but I found that adding a fair amount of olive oil gives the crust a richer and more buttery flavor.
- Brushing. I cannot overstate the significance that a simple brushing of garlic oil adds to a pizza crust. Mr. Pedantic and I squabble over the bits of leftover crusts now because it's basically garlic bread.
The sauce should be simple and cooked minimally. I do not believe that a sauce that has been simmered all day has any place on a pizza. I prefer to maintain that fresh tomato flavor as much as possible.
The cheeses should be present but not overwhelming. And yes, the perfect pizza requires multiple cheeses, but take a hand from your good friend Joe (Trader Joe, that is), and knock out four of the five required with his bags of Quattro Formaggio. Its a pre-shredded mix of Fontina, Parmesan, Provolone, and Asiago and it's a pizza-maker's secret weapon.
As for the toppings, well, that is entirely up to you. I have become partial to crispy bacon and sautéed mushrooms, but Mr. Pedantic insists upon pepperoni. He's charmingly predictable that way.
Goodbye delivery boy. Hello 24/7 pizza service.
This post was not sponsored in any way. All opinions stated are completely my own, as always! Thank you for being here!
Our Favorite Homemade Pizza
makes two, 9-inch pizzas (about 4 servings) // crust recipe adapted from Tyler Florence
for the sauce
This recipe will make far more sauce than you actually need for the pizzas, but it is excellent as pasta sauce or a wonderful dipping sauce for my favorite - mozzarella sticks.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1, 28oz can chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2-3 teaspoons granulated sugar
Heat olive oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant and has just started to brown.
Add canned tomatoes all at once, along with kosher salt. Bring the tomatoes to a simmer then reduce heat and cook, stirring often, for 20 minutes.
Stir in sugar to taste and season with additional salt, if you wish. Puree using an immersion blender or stand blender. At this point the sauce can be refrigerated and stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
for the crust
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup bread flour
Combine warm water and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer and sprinkle yeast over the top; stir just to combine. Allow the mixture to sit, untouched, for five minutes. The yeast should look frothy.
Fit the mixer with the dough hook attachment, then add olive oil and kosher salt to the yeast mixture. Turn the mixer on low speed and slowly incorporate the flours. When the dough has just begun to come together, increase the speed to medium and knead for five minutes. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl, forming a rough ball.
Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead several times, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a tight ball and place in a well-oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, dry place to rise for one hour.
While the dough is rising, prepare your toppings.
Preheat your oven to 500 degrees and place a pizza stone on the center rack.
When the dough has doubled in size, divide into two equal pieces and shape into two roughly 9-inch rounds.
Brush the heated pizza stone with a bit of olive oil and place the first crust directly onto the preheated stone. Ladle about 1/2 cup of the sauce in the center, spreading it evenly over the crust, and leaving about a 1/2-inch “wall” around the edges.
for the cheese
- 2 cups Trader Joe's Quattro Formaggio shredded cheese blend
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes
Sprinkle half of the shredded cheese over each pizza and scatter with fresh mozzarella.
for the toppings
Toppings are, of course, completely up to you, but these are my favorite. You will want to prepare your toppings while the crust is rising, not after!
- 4 bacon rashers, diced
- 6 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- brushing oil (1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil + 1 teaspoon garlic salt)
In a small, nonstick frying pan, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and reserve for later use. Then, add the mushrooms to the bacon renderings, and sprinkle with kosher salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 8-12 minutes; until the mushrooms have browned evenly.
Sprinkle the prepared mushrooms and crisp bacon over the layer of cheese.
Bake each pizza for 10-15 minutes, until the crust is deep golden and the cheese is bubbling. As soon as you remove your pizza from the oven, brush the edges of exposed crust with the prepared garlic oil.
Allow the pizzas to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!