by Ashley Fagan
There is something about a cozy bowl of soup that warms your soul on those cool nights as the season changes from Winter to Spring. If I’m being totally honest, I could eat soup during every season. It may be my favorite things to eat. Comforting, nostalgic, delicious, easy, and usually pretty healthy, if you consider all the veg and nutritious broth you’re adding. This soup is truly something special. I was inspired to make this soup by an idea, if my Grandmother were to make a soup, what would it look like? Veg, rich stock, and definitely meatballs! It would have to be healthy yet hearty, and evoke a sense of comfort. It would taste like coming home.
The first time I made this, my husband James proclaimed it to be his new favorite meal, and that’s saying something as he’s been my tried-and-true recipe tester for the last 17 years! He has requested this soup weekly throughout the cold winter months, but I decided to post it now as cabbage is very popular in March due to the St. Patrick’s Day holiday. There is also an abundance of Spring produce now available at the market.
Whether you’re still living in the brisk days of Winter, transitioning into the cool days of Spring or just looking for a comforting meal, this soup will surely bring you all the cozy vibes!
For the Pork Meatballs
For the Cabbage Soup
For the Meatballs
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.
Use a large bowl and place the slices of white bread in the bottom then pour over the milk. Let it sit for a few minutes while you prep the other ingredients.
Add the grated parmesan cheese, parsley, egg, salt and pepper and stir together. Add the ground pork and mix with your hands until well combined but, be careful not to overmix as this will make your meatballs tough.
Using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon, measure your pork mixture to form uniform portions into round meatballs. I scoop the mixture into my hands, give it a slight roll, and place it directly onto the parchment lined baking sheet. Continue this process until you have used all the pork.
Bake for 25 minutes then set aside.
For the Soup
While the meatballs are baking, heat a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil and heat until shimmering then add the onion and Sautee for 5 minutes until it becomes translucent. Next, add the cabbage, salt and pepper. It will seem that your pot it completely full but the cabbage with reduce quite a bit as it cooks and releases its water. Continue to stir and cook until the cabbage has reduced by half its original volume, about 10-15 minutes. Add the garlic and rosemary and continue to stir occasionally for 3-5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and place the lid on the pot. Let the cabbage continue to cook for another 30 minutes or until it becomes very tender.
Once the cabbage has cooked down and has become soft and sweet, stir in the vinegar. Taste and adjust for seasoning. You may find you want more vinegar, salt or pepper.
Add the chicken stock and bring the soup back to a simmer. Stir in the rice and add your parmesan rind. Place the lid back on the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, gently place the meatballs into the pot and continue to simmer with the lid off for another 15 minutes.
The soup can be served immediately, or you can let it cool completely and store in the fridge for up to 5 days. It gets better each day it sits. Reheat before serving and add additional grated parmesan if you like.
Would it even be Fall if I didn’t give you a new soup recipe? Of course, it would, but I felt you needed another delicious and creamy soup to keep in your back pocket for when you’re feeling extra seasonal. I don’t like to toot my own horn but “TOOT -TOOT”! This recipe is SO GOOD! I’m not going to lie, it’s going to cost you a bit of clean up, but I promise the results are worth it! Velvety soup, warm and earthy aromas, and a crunchy, sweet topping…ummm, YES, PLEASE! A company worthy dish, sure to impress even your toughest critics! Your guests will love this one so much that they’ll feel obligated to clean the mess up afterwards.
I promise not to tell them just how easy it was to make, that can be our little secret!
*If doubling the recipe, use 2 baking trays to prevent over crowding of the roasted vegetables.
For the Soup
For the Brittle
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, add the butternut squash, onion, fennel, garlic, thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper and toss until the vegetables are nicely coated. Evenly spread the mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, remove and toss to make sure everything is cooking evenly. Place the tray back into the oven and roast for another 15 minutes.
Remove the baking tray from the oven, pick out the three garlic cloves and set them aside. Carefully scrape the rest of the vegetable mixture into a large Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add the sherry, bay leaf and squeeze the roasted garlic cloves into the pot, discarding the skin. Let the mixture simmer for 3-5 minutes until the sherry cooks down a bit, then add the chicken stock. Continue to simmer for another 10 -15 minutes.
While the soup is simmering, make the brittle.
In a small pan over medium low heat, add the pistachios, butter and cinnamon. Shimmy the pan around until the mixture becomes fragrant, this should only take a few minutes. Pour in the maple syrup and keep shimmying the pan as it bubbles for 1 minute. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper and give it one more shimmy. Pour the brittle onto a plate or small tray and use a rubber spatula to evenly spread out the mixture. Set aside to cool.
Remove the bay leaf from the pot and discard. (DON'T FORGET THIS STEP!! THE BAY LEAF WILL RUIN YOUR SOUP IF IT ENDS UP IN THE BLENDER!!) Carefully ladle the hot soup mixture into a blender...did you take out the bay leaf...do it now! Puree the soup until smooth (leave the vent of the blender off to allow steam to escape but place a clean dish towel over the opening to prevent splatter). Pour the soup back into the pot, you can turn the heat off at this point or set it to the lowest setting to keep warm. Stir in the Crème Fraiche, reserving a few tablespoons for serving.
Once the Brittle has cooled and hardened, break it apart with your hands.
Ladle the soup into bowls and swirl in a spoonful of the reserved Crème Fraiche and a sprinkle of the pistachio brittle, serve immediately and enjoy!
by Ashley Fagan
Once the weather turns from humid Summer days to crisp Fall nights, my mind immediately shifts to all things cozy and comforting. I’m not ashamed to admit that I love all things “basic” when it comes to the Autumn season. Cozy sweaters, warm boots, chunky scarves and of course, anything pumpkin spiced! The Fall vibes don’t stop at my attire, but they consume my cooking habits as well. You can find me whipping up all sorts of soul satisfying comfort food including soups, stews, spiced cakes and of course, CHILI! I love creating different variations of chili throughout Fall and Winter but this easy, weeknight friendly version is one I turn to repeatedly. It’s smoky, sweet, and slightly spicy flavor is, in my opinion, the perfect Chili trifecta! I use ground turkey here instead of a traditional ground beef, but you can certainly improvise by using your favorite ground meat. Ground chicken or pork would also be a welcome addition!
When shopping for your ingredients, look for fire-roasted diced tomatoes that include green chilies. They are available in most supermarkets, but if you can’t find them, you can use regular diced tomatoes and add a small can of mild green diced chilies instead, which can be found in the same aisle as the taco ingredients. I also like using a can of mixed chili beans here so that you get a nice texture and flavor balance. Chili beans typically include a mix of black beans, pinto beans and kidney beans but if you can’t find a can of the mixed variety, you can choose your favorite to add instead. Be careful not to accidentally buy canned chili! You want canned chili beans. Big difference! Canned chili beans do not include additional ingredients.
Have fun with this recipe! It’s very forgiving and incredibly versatile! You can also easily double the recipe to feed a crowd or use it to top a big plate of nachos, which is something we do often on Friday’s for our Family Movie Dinner Night! I would love to hear how this recipe turned out for you! Drop me a comment below to let me know how you adapted the recipe.
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the diced onion and sauté for 5 minutes until they begin to appear translucent. Add the diced bell pepper and a pinch of salt and continue to sauté for another 5 minutes until they begin to brown slightly. Add the garlic and stir for another minute or until it becomes fragrant Add the ground turkey and spice blend, breaking up the turkey meat and stirring to combine. Cook for another 5 minutes until the turkey is mostly cooked through. Add the canned tomatoes, chili beans, BBQ sauce and honey, stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid and cook for 25 -30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the chili is cooking, prepare your toppings. After the 30 minutes, stir in the corn and let sit for another 5 minutes on the lowest heat setting.
Serve in big heaping bowls with the toppings laid out so everyone can add what they want! Don’t forget a big pile of tortilla chips or a hunk of corn bread!
by Ashley Fagan
We've officially hit soup season! The temperature is dropping here in the North East and chilly Fall days call for something warm and comforting. Broccoli and cheddar are a classic flavor combination that has been a favorite of mine since childhood. The only way my mom could get me to eat my broccoli as a kid, was to coat it in gooey, yellow cheese sauce so that only a subtle hint of green could we detected underneath. I can’t really blame the child version of me, cheese will forever be a favorite of mine! This recipe is very reminiscent of the cheesy broccoli soup you can find at the popular food chain...we'll just say it rhymes with "Schmanara". I've upped the veggie content here and opted for a more sophisticated cheese in place of the processed yellow hunk of goodness my mom used to use. I like to use freshly grated, white sharp cheddar here but if you want to stick with the classic appeal, go with yellow cheese. I also cut the veggies into bite size pieces for easier mouthfuls and speed of cooking. Serve it up nice a hot and if you’re feeling extra cozy, eat it straight from a bread bowl! Enjoy!
Serves 4 - 6
Bread Bowls or Hunks of Bread for serving
In a large Dutch oven, over medium, heat, add the 2 T olive oil. Saute the onions for 3 minutes, until they start to soften. Add the diced carrots, celery, salt and pepper and continue to cook for another 3 minutes.
Over medium-low heat, add the butter to the pot of veggies. Once melted, stir in the flour (this will create your roux, which thickens the soup) and cook for another 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Slowly add the chicken broth to the pot while stirring constantly to evenly incorporate the roux mixture without lumps. Add the chicken base and bay leaf to the soup and bring to a simmer.
Simmer the soup over low heat for 10 minutes with the lid ON. Remove the lid and add the potatoes and cauliflower. Continue to simmer with the lid OFF for another 5-7 minutes. Now add the diced broccoli and continue to cook for another 5 – 10 minutes until the broccoli softens but remains a vivid green color.
Stir in the cheese and cream until melted and the soup becomes thick and creamy. Remove the pot from the heat and serve immediately with toasted bread or in a bread bowl!
Every Fall I start to crave all those delicious comfort food staples I've been avoiding during the warm summer months. Biscuits and Gravy is at the top of my list of perfect comfort foods! I love this version because of its play on sweet and savory flavors and because it's so incredibly simple to make! I think foods like this can appear challenging or unapproachable, but making your own gravy is actually one of the easiest things you can do! Not to mention so, so, so much better than any store-bought abomination you might encounter. I encourage you to not be intimidated by this southern kitchen staple. Give it a try, I promise your brunch guests won’t be disappointed!
In a large Dutch oven, over medium heat, add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, crumble to sausage into the pan and let it cook for a few minutes before stirring. You want to get some caramelization going. Continue to brown the sausage until completely cooked through, about 5-10 minutes. While your sausage is cooking, grab a fine mesh sieve and set it over a medium size mixing bowl. Once the sausage is completely cooked, pour the sausage along with any drippings and fat that have rendered into the sieve. Place the pot back on the heat and turn it on low. Let the drippings fall away from the pork and collect in the mixing bowl. You can use a wooden spoon to press the pork into the sieve to help release more fat. This is what you're using to make the roux which will thicken the gravy, so you want to get every drop. You should have roughly a half cup of pork fat to use. If you find yourself short, add butter to make up the difference. You want an equal ratio of fat to flour.
Return the pot to medium low heat, add the pork fat and flour. Using a whisk, mix the four into the fat to create a roux, it should bubble a bit and start to take on some slight color, about 2 minutes, whisking the whole time. You want to cook out the raw flavor of the four. Add the sage, salt, pepper and nutmeg to the roux and whisk to combine. Continue to cook for 2 minutes. Carefully add the milk to the roux, whisking the mixture the entire time. Continue to whisk until the roux and milk have come together. Turn the heat up to medium high to bring the gravy to a simmer, you want little bubbles not a full boil, so play with the heat as you go. This is where you need some patience. You must stir the gravy often to prevent lumps from forming and from the bottom burning. The gravy should take 5-10 minutes to fully come together. If your gravy appears too thick, you can add more milk to loosen it up. At this point you can ditch the whisk for a wooden spoon and stir in the crumbed cooked sausage and maple syrup. Continue to cook for another few minutes and taste for seasoning. You may need more salt and pepper at this point, so adjust carefully.
Serve with warm biscuits (I prefer homemade, but the canned version will work just fine) or over thick toast. Yum!
*Roux: Flour and fat cooked together to thicken sauces and gravy.
So I have a little secret to share.....sometimes I just don't feel like cooking! I know, I know, this is probably completely contradictory to my enthusiasm for encouraging everyone I come into contact with to cook as often as possible, but lets face it, life can be a little overwhelming some days and we all need a fail safe approach to putting a comforting meal on the table for our starving families after a long hard day. This one is hard to pass up with its minimal prep, and set it and forget approach! And lets be honest, who doesn't like tacos! Can I get a "Yum!" ya'll!
4-5 lb Bone in Pork Butt, trimmed of excess fat
1 Onion, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 Bay Leaf
½ Can/bottle of beer, preferably a flavorful beer such as a Pinapple or Mango
Salt and Pepper
For Serving - corn tortillas, sour cream, sliced radishes, shredded cabbage, lime wedges and cilantro.
Place the pork butt in the slow cooker and season generously with salt and pepper, (about 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper). Place the onion slices, brown sugar, orange half, garlic cloves, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf around the pork and pour in half a can of beer. Set to high and cook for 6-8 hours. The pork should be very tender and falling away from the bone.
Pre-heat your broiler. Once the pork is cooked, discard the cinnamon stick, orange half, bay leaf and garlic cloves. Remove the pork butt and place it on a rimmed baking sheet. Shred the pork and discard any hunks of fat and gristle along with the bone. Spread the pork evenly on the baking sheet and place under the broiler for a few minutes until it starts to crisp up. Stir it around and set it back under the broiler. Do this a few more times, checking the pork after a few minutes each time, careful not to char the pork pieces. Once you receive your desired crispness, place the shredded pork back into the slow cooker with the juices. Serve with corn tortillas, sour cream, radishes, shredded cabbage, lime wedges and cilantro.
Where has this dish been all my life?! Why did it take me so long to create such a simple and elegant supper that I can throw together for my family in 30 minutes and feel confident enough to serve for a last-minute dinner party? This one takes the cake when it comes to versatility and sophistication! I love how the salmon melts into the pasta and the saffron cream coats every noodle so that every bite is a burst of flavors that leaves you wanting, well, a bigger fork! My husband walked in the door after work and looked at me and said "My God! What is that amazing smell!?" he took one bite and melted into his chair! I’ll take that as one of the best compliments I could ever receive!
*This dish uses 3/4 of a bag of dried pasta which can be bit annoying, I know, but I like to use the leftover past for soup. I always have handfuls of different pasta shapes in wrapped up bags lying around my pantry for when I feel the desire to whip together some homemade soup.
Serves 4 hearty bowls or 6 smaller portions
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions to al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, season the salmon with a ½ tsp of the salt and some fresh ground pepper and set aside.
In a large skillet (large enough to add the pasta at the end) melt the butter over medium heat until it starts to brown a bit and smell toasty and nutty. Be careful not to burn the butter, it happens quickly. Add the leeks and the other ½ tsp salt and pepper to taste. Sautee until the leeks start to melt into the butter and brown slightly, about 3-5 minutes. Add the vermouth and the saffron and simmer until the vermouth is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and the cream and bring to a simmer. While you are waiting for the sauce to simmer, cube the salmon fillet into 2-inch large chunks.
Add the Salmon cubes to the simmering sauce, cover and cook over medium low heat for 2-3 minutes. Uncover and turn the salmon cubes. Layer the spinach on top of the salmon and cover for another 3 minutes, or until the spinach has wilted a bit. Uncover and stir everything together. Add the pasta and stir, breaking up the salmon a bit as you go. Be gentle, you don’t want to break apart the salmon pieces too much. Cook for a few minutes longer, allowing the flavors to mingle. If the pasta starts to appear dry, add some of the reserved pasta water to loosen it up. Top with the chopped chives and serve.
Congee is most commonly known as an Asian rice porridge. Rice is cooked in a lot of liquid until it breaks down and turns velvety and thick. It’s the ultimate comfort food when you feel a cold coming on or if you want something to warm you up on a cold winter night. The addition of chicken turns it into a heartier meal and the scallion gremolata adds a little zing to brighten the Asian inspired flavors.