Sunday, October 17, 2010


Our first Soup Night was a good one. There were about 12 of us which gave us a chance for quality time with our friends. My Chicken Noodle Soup turned out extra good.We also had Baked Brie with Cherries, Anti Pasta, Cream Cheese with Pear Chutney, and Guacamole. I always put out a veggie tray and cheese and crackers too, along with french bread and butter to have with the soup. My husband made a fire outside in the fire pit and we all spent a good amount of time out there. It was a lovely evening!

Set up for a Soup Night is fairly simple. I try to make it so that I don't have to do anything once my guests arrive. I usually just push the table in the kitchen up against the windows and put all the food on it. I use another table for the ice bucket and wine glasses, water glasses and put out a cork screw and a bottle opener. This way it's very easy for everyone to help themselves to whatever they need for their cocktails or beverages. On the other side is a table where I keep my small appliances. I moved them into the pantry and used the table for the guacamole and the anti pasta. I set up the soup bowls, flatware, napkins, a big bowl of noodles and a soup ladle next to the soup pot that's being kept warm on the stove. And of course I put out mass quantities of candles. Candle light makes everyone look better!

My chicken soup turned out extra good. I've taken to using chicken stock instead of water to make the soup. It makes a much richer broth. My secret for chicken soup is really my Mom's secret; a dash of nutmeg. It gives the soup a depth of flavor that you can't get without it. I strain everything out of the broth and add fresh celery and carrots to cook until tender. The ones used to make the broth are cooked "to death". Too mushy to serve, so they get thrown out and the fresh goes in. Everyone has their own recipe for Chicken Soup. Mine is pretty straight forward - simmer chicken with vegetables, garlic, onions, salt, pepper, bay leaf, nutmeg. Strain it when it's done and add the fresh veggies, and re-season as needed. I'll even add some chicken bouillon if necessary, but if you use the stock to simmer everything, it's unlikely your soup will need more flavor.

Baked Brie with Cherries

1 wheel or wedge of Brie, depending on much you need.
1 sheet of puff pastry - thawed
3/4 c cherry pie filling, or apricot jam, or orange marmalade. Use your favorite flavor jam (not jelly)
Optional: chopped pecans or walnuts

Flour your table a little and roll the puff pastry gently out to fit around your piece of brie. Cut it size if necessary. Set the brie on the pastry and top the cheese with your fruit filling and nuts if you are using them. Then wrap the pastry around the cheese. Make sure you close the top securely so your filling doesn't come boiling out. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown. You can use little extra bits of pastry to make a decoration on top if you like. Note: you may need 2 sheets of pastry if you are wrapping a large wheel of cheese.

Bake the brie about an hour or more before company comes. If it's too hot when you serve it, not only can people burn their mouth, but the cheese and fruit filling will be too liquid. Letting it cool will give it a chance to firm up a little.

Anti Pasti

Salad dressing
1/2 lb chunk of hard salami
1/2 chunk of provolone cheese
1 can of artichokes, drained and cut into halves or quarters depending on their size.
1 can black olives.
1/2 of a jar of roasted red peppers

Cut the salami and cheese into chunks about the size of the olives you have. Slice the red peppers into thin strips. Put all of this into a large bowl.

Use your favorite Italian dressing on this or make your own. Here's how I made mine.

Balsamic Dijon Salad Dressing
3 cloves garlic - pressed in a garlic press
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 c balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 t. dried onions
2 T Dijon mustard
1 t salt
1 t cracked black pepper

Put all into a blender of "magic bullet" and whiz for a minute. You can also just use a whisk to make the salad dressing. Pour over the salad and toss to coat. Put the salad into a pretty glass bowl if you have one. It's so good looking it deserves a bowl so you can see the whole salad.

Optional: add some fresh oregano or basil to your dressing. Use any flavorings you like in a dressing. There is no right or wrong way as far as what you like.

This Anti Pasta was really good and so easy to make. It took all of 15 minutes to prepare. I would recommend this for any gathering! It's easy to increase the recipe by simply doubling it. You can add pepperoncinis if you like them. You can use any kind of olives - kalamatas are good in here too, but be careful of pits! There are all kinds of recipes for Anti Pasta. Try finding one on line that you like and keep it handy for your next party!

My veggie tray needs no recipe. I put some sugar snap peas on it that I blanched for about 1 minuted and them rinsed immediately in cold water. I also did the same with some broccoli florets. Blanching them first makes them bright green so they are very pretty, and it takes away the raw flavor without taking away the crispness. Use your favorite ranch dressing for dip or make your own. I just used a few tablespoons of mayonnaise and added enough lemon juice to thin it down. Then I just added a little garlic powder and some dill. Use anything you like!

A friend had given me a jar of Pear Chutney she made. It was a savory chutney rather than a sweet one. A little tart, but it had raisins in it. I wanted to use it, but didn't think it would be good on the brie, so I used in on a bar of low fat cream cheese. It was delicious!

Another friend was kind enough to bring a bowl of tapioca pudding! It had been years since I'd had any! It was creamy and delicious.

Yet another friend brought a bottle of Dogfish Head Wine/Beer. It was ....... interesting. To me it tasted like fruity beer. I'm not a beer lover, but it wasn't bad. It's worth a try if you see a bottle.

November Soup night looks like it might be two soups. Lentil with Smoked Sausage and small pot of potato and corn chowder with shrimp.

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