Monday, February 9, 2015

"Panera-style" Low-Fat Vegetarian Garden Vegetable Soup with Pesto

During the cold months of winter, I'm a big fan of Panera's soups. They always seem so light, yet filling. For awhile I was consumed with their Low-Fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup, but lately I've been all over their Low-Fat Vegetarian Garden Vegetable Soup with Pesto. Panera describes this soup as "A low-fat vegetarian soup with diced tomatoes, sliced zucchini, yellow beans, fresh Swiss chard, cauliflower, bell peppers and pearled barley in a tomato broth garnished with a dollop of nut-free basil pesto. Served Monday, Wednesday and Friday." 

After many trips to my local Panera over the past few weeks (and a fair amount of money on $5 bowls of soup), I decided to try making a similar recipe at home. I found a "copy cat" recipe of the soup online, and then I modified it with ingredients I could find at my grocer in February. 

Long story short: This soup is really, really good! It's not difficult to make, though prep time with the vegetables took a little time. (I could work on my knife skills.)

"Panera-style" Low-Fat Vegetarian Garden Vegetable Soup with Pesto

1 cup dry pearled barley (+3 cups water)
1 cup chopped zucchini (1 small zucc)
1 cup diced red onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper (1 pepper)
1 cup chopped Swiss chard
1 cup chopped cauliflower
1 cup chopped yellow wax beans (I used green beans due to availability)
Olive oil
32 oz vegetable broth
4 cups water
1 can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano
1 can tomato paste
4 minced garlic gloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons cilantro
1/2 cup Romano/Parmesan cheese mixture
Basil pesto

1. In a medium-sized pot, bring dry pearled barley to boil with 3 cups of water, then reduce to simmer while chopping/dicing raw vegetables (roughly 30 minutes for me).
2. Place olive oil in the bottom of a large pot and heat.
3. Add onions and zucchini, then sauté for about 90 seconds
4. Add red bell pepper and Swiss chard, then sauté for another 2 minutes.
5. Add vegetable broth, water, diced tomatoes (from can), tomato paste to the pot. Add cauliflower, yellow waxed beans and minced garlic to the pot and bring to a boil.
6. Add simmering barley to large pot, then lower temperature and cover pot. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
7. Stir in salt, onion powder, garlic powder and cilantro. Then add Romano/Parmesan cheese mixture, stirring until cheese is incorporated into the soup.
8. Serve soup hot. Garnish with basil pesto.

Image courtesy: Panera
So Good! Even better, it's low in calories. Panera lists a bowl of their soup as only 140 calories. I can't be sure my recipe yields the exact same nutritional results, but I'm guessing it's less than 200 calories per bowl.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Blueberry Cobbler Tarts

Well, my CSA shares with Wayward Seed Farm are coming in, and I've been shackled with the obligation to 1) figure out what the heck they gave me, and 2) figure out what to make with what they gave me.

With strawberry fruit shares, it's pretty easy for me to figure out what to do: eat them, raw, before, during and after all meals. Easy-peasy.

For my most recent CSA fruit share, I received a portion of blueberries. I'm not the biggest fan of blueberries—and I've never really enjoyed eating them raw—so I knew I had to enlist the help of the Internet to solve the problem of what to do with roughly two cups of fresh Ohio blueberries.

Happily, I stumbled upon this recipe for exactly two cups of blueberries on recipezaar, entitled "Individual Blueberry Cobblers," by Julie B's Hive. It was a Very Easy recipe, and I noted that I had most of the ingredients already in my cupboard. Score!

I slightly modified this recipe to the following, and hence it has been renamed:

Blueberry Cobbler Tarts
2 cups fresh Ohio blueberries
sugar (a bit over half a cup, in all)
1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup water
3 tablespoons butter
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup 1% milk

First, preheat the oven to 375°F.

Next, combine the blueberries, 1/4 cup of sugar, lemon juice and water in a saucepan.

Brink the mixture to a boil, then lower the temperature and let simmer for five minutes.

While the blueberries are simmering, lightly oil four "tart pans." Since this recipe holds quite a bit, I've actually used 10 oz. soufflé dish/ramekins that I purchased from Crate and Barrel. (Love that place!) 

After the blueberry mixture (Shall we now call it a compote?) has simmered for five minutes, pour equal amounts into the four greased mini baking dishes. All attempts to avoid drooling into the tart pans is encouraged at this point.

Now it's time to make the delicious (!) cobbler batter. First cream the butter, 1/3 cup sugar, egg, vanilla extract and almond extract until well blended. Next, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture into the butter mixture, along with the milk. Mix until well blended, but don't over-mix it. (I've found over-mixing to be a general no-no when dealing with anything remotely pastry-like.)

Once mixed, spoon the cobbler batter over the hot blueberries in their mini baking dishes.

Licking the batter remnants off the spoon is pretty much mandatory at this point. It is goo-oo-ood. 

Bake the tarts at 375°F for about 30 minutes, or until browned. Don't overcook, as the cake part of the cobbler can get quite dry. While cooking, commence cleaning the batter bowl with your tongue.

When the tarts are browned, serve them warm, plain, or with a bit of ice cream or whipped cream. The blueberry cobbler tarts can be quite rich, so some creamy vanilla ice cream can go a long way to cut the sweet of the blueberries.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

As my Blueberry Cobbler Tarts were cooking, I began to wonder about the difference between cobblers and tarts and crisps and whatnot. Some interesting reading on the subject can be found here.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

An Ode to Trattoria Roma in Grandview

Words cannot begin to describe how much I love Trattoria Roma in Grandview, Ohio.

If I had to use one word: Delicious. But that only describes their food. Their service is also impeccable, both on the restaurant side and at the bar. Their servers are friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. The management is amenable and responsive, and their kitchen is always ready to offer inventive specials to complement their already expansive menu. (The owners are Shawn Mason and Keith Dunn, and their Chef is Matthew Prokopchek.) In short, this restaurant rocks! Please try it.

I know it's such a standard dish, but I can't stop singing the praises of their lasagna. In my humble opinion, it is the best lasagna in Columbus. (And no, I haven't tried the lasagna in every other restaurant; I simply can't imagine a lasagna being prepared any better.)

The menu description gives little hint of the joy this dish will bring to your taste buds:
Meat, three-cheese, spinach lasagne served with a slow cooked marinara sauce.
I guess if there's one thing they need to work on, it's their menu descriptions.

Anyway, their pasta is fresh and made in house (of course.) Their marinara is a tomato-lovers delight, not too sweet or salty, and not too spicy. It's just warm tomato goodness. They include a layer of spinach in their lasagna, which adds a surprising texture of leafy substantialness—and I think it might help the dish hold together, which makes a wonderful presentation. The three cheeses blend together in a melodious, creamy symphony of melted delight, and the meat (a mixture of beef and pork, I believe) is in just the right proportion to neither dominate the dish but also not get lost in the other flavors.

The portion size is more than enough to share with a friend. The picture below actually shows a half portion, and I was stuffed by the time I sopped up the last bit of marinara with their garlic toast (which, for what it's worth, is the one thing I think could be improved upon).

So. Good. 

If you're in the Grandview area, I strongly suggest you try Trattoria Roma on Grandview Avenue. All of their menu items are superb, they offer a wide selection of reasonably prices wines, and their service is friendly and warm. 

And no, I'm receiving no money for my resounding endorsement of this gem of an Italian restaurant. :-o