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Creamy Zucchini Soup

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Time: 1.5 hours total; 20-30 minutes of prep, about an hour to simmer, and another 5 minutes to puree.

Serves: 10-14

Inspired by: I took an eight-day cycling trip to Piedmont, Italy in September of 2008. We tasted nearly 20 different wine varietals in that short time. The overall food and wine experience was exceptional – as was the cycling with 40-50 miles a day and some awesome climbs! One day we stopped for a couple of hours to have a multi-course lunch at a beautiful winery  (it was very difficult to get back on the bike after that – even with all the food – I think we had even more wine!). The soup was amazing and we all asked about what was in it because it was so rich and creamy, but when it was described to us, it sounded so healthy! As soon as I got home I tried something similar and this was the result.

Supplies: Large soup pot

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter (optional)
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large white onion
  • 1-2 carrots
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 large potato
  • 6-8 medium zucchinis
  • 70 oz chicken broth (4, 14 oz cans) – organic preferred, do not used reduced fat or salt
  • 2-4 tablespoons chopped basil (or Italian leafed parsley)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper or curry powder (optional – I love the “kick” this gives but skip this if you don’t want a spicy soup)
  • 1 additional teaspoon of salt (if you aren’t sensitive to salt, you might want to add this at the end to bring out the flavors)

Preparation:

  • Dice the onion and sauté in the olive oil and butter until soft and translucent (approximately 5-8 minutes).
  • While sautéing the onion, peel and dice the carrot and potato, dice the zucchini and celery, and chop the basil.
  • Add the above items (except the basil) to the pot and stir/cook for a few minutes.
  • Add the chicken broth, basil, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to simmer, cover with lid, and cook for about an hour or until all veggies are soft.
  • Put into a food processor and blend (I have the large 14 cup kind and do this in two batches). If you want the soup to be thicker, strain out some of the broth before blending. You can always add it back in.
  • Add additional salt as needed.

Wine Suggestions: Contrast with a crisp white such as an Chablis, White Burgundy or Albarino or compliment with a creamy white such as a barrel fermented (rich, buttery) California Chardonnay. If you add the spice you might even consider a light to medium bodied spicy red such as a Southern Rhone or Rioja or an off-dry white such as a Riesling.


Chicken Noodle Soup

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Time: 5-6 hours (easy to make, but waiting for the chicken to slow cook takes time)

Serves: 10-12

Ingredients (First List)

  • Whole chicken (approximately 3 lbs; remove the “innards”)
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 large onion – chopped
  • ½ cup fresh parsley – chopped
  • 2 stalks celery with leaves – chopped
  • 5 whole peppercorns
  • 6 chicken bouillon cubes or 2 tablespoons chicken soup base
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon dried celery seed
  • Dash of dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Ingredients (Second List)

  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • ¼ cup minced onions
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • Salt and black pepper to taste (can add a little cayenne as well if you like a kick)
  • ½ cup rice (uncooked) OR 1 lb fusilli or rotelle

Recipe

  • Combine first list of ingredients above: chicken, water, onion, celery, parsley, peppercorns, bouillon/soup base, bay leaves, celery seed, thyme and salt in large pot (water should cover chicken so don’t use a pot that is too large/wide).
  • Cook over low heat for 3-4 hours and keep covered.
  • Remove chicken from pot and allow it to cool.
  • Strain vegetables and spices from broth and discard (because all flavor has been sucked out).
  • Put broth in refrigerator to cool for 30-90 minutes.
  • Remove skin and bones from chicken – cut or tear meat into bite-sized pieces.
  • Skim/remove fat from top of cooled broth.
  • Bring broth to a boil.
  • Add second list of ingredients to the broth, including the chicken.
  • In a separate pot, cook the pasta according to instructions (if you cook it separately, it keeps the soup from getting too starchy)
  • Simmer for approximately 30 minutes until vegetables are cooked but not too soft – this makes a large bowl of soup so if you are making it to reheat again later they’ll get softer.

Wine Suggestions: If you enjoy the complimentary flavors and textures – then a creamy white, such as a buttery California Chardonnay, is a nice compliment to this soup. However, if you prefer something more contrasting, I think a crisp white with good acidity is wonderful to cut through the oiliness that comes through in the chicken. The photo above was when we tried it with a a very light, fairly high-acid red (Arbois) and it was nice, but not a fantastic pairing.  I’d have prefered a light White Burgundy with some beautiful lemony flavors.


Pan Seared Robalo (Sea Bass)

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Time:  10 minutes

Serves: 2

Inspired by: I spend a lot of time in Mexico where my cooking is often limited to stove top only, but where I also have access to fresh fish daily. I can easily purchase fish hours after it is caught. I’ve learned that just about any white fish is quick and easy to cook stove top – even without a good hood/fan. This was an experiment with Robalo – a type of sea bass –  it was delicious.

  • 12 ounces of fish (I plan for 6 ounces per person, but on a big surf day perhaps a bit more)
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon or lime, herbs, salt and pepper

Preparation: Add the olive oil to a large sauté pan on medium heat. Once it is hot, add the fish seasoned with salt, pepper and herbs of your choice, and cover with a lid to keep the heat in. Cook for 4-6 minutes (depends how thick it is) and use a spatula to turn it over. Drip some lemon or lime juice over it and cook for another 3-5 minutes. When the fish feels firm to the touch it is done. When it is uber fresh, I tend to cook it a bit less.

Wine Suggestions: I prefer light white fish with Chablis or White burgundy, but any crisp white wine is a nice option, or when in Mexico, a light crisp beer such as Pacifico is often the best choice.


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