Italian Sausage Soup with Croutons

Posted: January 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Dairy-free, Soup | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Italian Sausage Soup

I’ve discovered the wonders of soup-making just in time for this ultra-rainy San Francisco winter. It’s so easy and satisfying! There’s nothing quite as lovely than a steaming hot bowl of homemade soup to slurp as the rain drips outside and the heater struggles to keep your home warm.

Italian Sausage Soup

Adapted from this recipe


1 lb ground Italian sausage
3 cloves garlic, smashed
6 leaves fresh basil, ripped
2 carrots, peeled, cut into rounds
2 red potatoes, peeled, cubed
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 15oz. cans beans (butter beans are good, and so are black eyed peas), drained
1 15oz. can diced tomatoes
26 oz. container of Swanson’s beef stock (the good stuff, without MSG)
1 15oz. can’s worth of water
Splash of olive oil (1 tablespoon?)
Splash red wine
Salt, to taste (1 1/2 teaspoons?)
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste (1/2 teaspoon?)
Crushed red pepper, to taste (1/4 teaspoon?)


  1. Chop all veggies. Drain beans.
  2. Remove sausage from casing and separate into chunks. Heat olive oil in large pot. Brown sausage in oil till cooked through.
  3. Add onions, garlic, and basil. Saute a few minutes.
  4. Add everything else except the beans. Stir well. Adjust seasonings as necessary. Cover and bring to a boil.
  5. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes, covered. Add beans. Simmer another 5 minutes, covered. Make sure potatoes and carrots are soft enough. Serve with baguette croutons (recipe below).

Baguette Croutons


Sweet baguette
Olive oil
Garlic salt


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Toss slices of baguette with a generous amount of olive oil, salt, and garlic salt, to taste. Place on cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Flip each crouton over and bake another 10 minutes, checking to make sure they aren’t getting burnt. Croutons should be golden brown and crispy.

Quick & “Dirty” Rice

Posted: June 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Dairy-free | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

Let me preface this by saying: I am not from Louisiana. I have never even BEEN to Louisiana (though I’d like to go some day). The only time I’ve ever had dirty rice was at a crazy BBQ joint in Boston. I’d been briefly exposed to Cajun cooking several years ago when my friend Chrissy LeMaire over at gave me tutorial when I was crashing at her house. From that, I knew that the foundation of many Cajun dishes is the indisputably delicious “Holy Trinity” of onions, bell peppers, and celery, sauteed slowly in some kind of fat. I saw that we had 2/3rds of the trinity, some some Aidells Cajun Style Andouille sausages, and rice, and was inspired to make us some dirty rice.

While‘s Dirty Rice recipe looks amazing, it was a bit more involved than I was prepared for. Instead, I used this recipe at as a starting point. We lacked the bacon, pork, celery, green bell peppers, chicken livers, and chives. What we did have was a whole lot of bacon grease, the aforementioned Andouille sausages (surprisingly not very spicy), celery seed, and red and yellow peppers. I’m not the biggest fan of chicken liver anyway, so I wasn’t too broken up about missing that key piece of the puzzle. Following the recipe, my own taste buds, and my knowledge of cooking, I interpreted the recipe according to our available ingredients. The result? Delicious.

Quick & "Dirty" rice

Quick & “Dirty” Rice

Adapted from this recipe at


1 tablespoon bacon grease
3 andouille sausages (I like Aidells), cut into coins and then in half again
1/2 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 cup rice (we had a combination of basmati and jasmine on hand)
2 cups chicken stock (homemade, if possible)


  1. Prep your veggies and sausages. Mix all spices together in a small bowl.
  2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat bacon grease. Cook sausage pieces until slightly browned. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pan.
  3. Reduce heat to low. Add bell peppers, onion, and garlic and saute for 5 minutes. Add all spices and cook another 3 minutes, stirring. Stir in rice, cook another 5 minutes.
  4. Add chicken stock and sausages. Turn up heat and bring to a boil, then cover and turn heat down to simmer for 15-25 minutes, until rice is tender. (The original recipe said 10 minutes, but it took mine 25 minutes to get tender.)

A Pantry Dinner – Orzo with Sausage, Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Pine Nuts

Posted: April 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Dairy-free, Pasta | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments »

I know, I know, it’s been way too long since I’ve posted. I’ve been busy, broke, and a bit fooded-out to be honest. I promise I have a few more posts up my sleeve, coming soon! To whet your appetite, here’s a dinner I made a couple of weeks ago but never got around to posting.

Something I like to do when I only have pantry staples lying around is put together a grain or pasta with whatever jarred/canned/bulk things I have lying around. Usually it’s got a bit of a Mediterranean nature — Italy, Greece, the Middle East, whatever. Couscous or orzo or rice or spiral pasta. Sun-dried tomatoes (always sundried tomatoes). Whatever meat I’ve got lying around, usually sausage or bacon. Pine nuts. An aromatic or two, like shallots, onions, or garlic. Fresh veggies if I have them, particularly mushrooms or red bell peppers. Maybe some chickpeas. Everything but the grain goes in the skillet with some olive oil, salt & pepper, maybe some other spices, then it’s all mixed together with the cooked grain. Maybe toss in some feta or parmesan if that’s what floats your boat. Dinner!

Pantry Dinner - Orzo

Here’s one take on this theme. Ingredients are all approximate.

Orzo with Sausage, Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Pine Nuts


1 1/2 cup dry orzo pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil – you can decrease this significantly if you wish
2 medium shallots, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced or smashed
2 sausages (I used Niman Ranch Italian Sweet sausages), cut into rounds, and then each round in half
1/3 cup pine nuts
2/3 of a 9 oz jar of sundried tomatoes, oil drained (or add a bit of it — it’s very tasty!)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
generous splash of vodka
pinch oregano
salt & pepper to taste


  1. Start boiling some water for your pasta.
  2. Dry roast pine nuts over medium heat until golden brown. Keep an eye on them — they burn fast!. Set aside.
  3. Heat olive oil. Sautee shallots till translucent.
  4. Add garlic, sautee 30 seconds
  5. Add sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, salt, pepper, oregano, stir till mixed. Cook a bit till the sausage is heated through (I get the fully cooked kind, so I don’t have to worry about whether it’s going to kill me or not).
  6. Add tomato paste, stir till everthing is covered. Here’s a trick: You know how recipes only ever call for one or two tablespoons of tomato paste and you end up wasting the rest of that little can? Next time, line an ice cube tray with plastic wrap, then dole out 1 tablespoon portions of tomato paste into each hole. Freeze, and transfer to a freezer-safe bag. 1 tablespoon portions of tomato paste, ready to go!
  7. Add vodka, stir till absorbed and/or evaporated. A bit of alcohol “unlocks” some of the flavor compounds in tomatoes that aren’t otherwise accessible (source). That’s why your grandpa always throws some wine into his pasta sauce.
  8. At this point, your pasta water should be boiling. Add orzo and cook according to the directions on the package — usually about 8 minutes. Drain.
  9. Mix everything together. Toss some feta in if you have it. Serve! Yum.

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