During the recent cold spell, it was wonderful to hear from a longtime reader named “Junebug” who was visiting family up north.
“When getting ready becomes something of a team sport during the winter months while wood is cut and stacked to make it cozy inside. When waking up to 39 degrees becomes a motivator to … walk the dog across the tracks and beyond while prompting the Cardinals to answer and homemade apple pie becomes a dream. A childhood friend lives across the street and we hoped the hugs would never end. Go to the cemetery to visit her family, say some prayers, and remember inside jokes on the drive home when it became difficult to imagine that anything was wrong with the world.”
Her kind words brought me back to Fraboni’s Italian Delicatessen on Owen Road in Monona and their Italian Sausages were an ingredient in a Readers’ Choice recipe. And thanks to Mike Repas for sharing another one of his favorite recipes.
Sausage and tortellini soup
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1 pound spicy Italian sausage (see note)
1 cup chopped white or yellow onion
6 garlic cloves, sliced (see note)
15-ounce can of diced tomatoes with liquid
½ teaspoon each of basil and oregano
1 cup thinly sliced carrot
1 cup thinly sliced zucchini
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
12 ounce cheese tortellini
Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese for garnish
Use loose sausage or links with the casing removed. Place in a large Dutch Oven or other heavy-bottomed pan and sear with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, breaking up any lumps. When they are browned, remove from the pan. Retain about a tablespoon of the drippings in the pan, then add the onion and garlic and cook until just softened and translucent, being careful not to burn the garlic. Return the sausage to the pan with the broth, wine, tomatoes, spices, and tomato sauce and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Reduce the heat and add the carrots, zucchini, and peppers. Bring to a simmer and continue to simmer for 20-30 minutes, periodically skimming off excess fat if necessary. Add parsley and tortellini and continue to simmer, stirring, until tortellini are tender (test one for texture, aiming for al dente).
Serve the soup in bowls with a generous garnish of shredded cheese and a crusty bread for dipping. Make it a light meal with a simple “on the side” green salad.
Note: The Fraboni sausage is highly recommended. If you prefer, substitute Fraboni’s sweet (mild) and add some gentle “heat” with a pinch of pepperoncino (hot pepper flakes). You can thicken the soup a bit by adding about ⅓ cup of shredded cheese for the final simmer. To mix stir well. Slicing the garlic makes it less likely to burn.
Here are a few shorter recipes, starting with a favorite of Barbara Vaglia McCalley, a friend and cookbook author in Ohio.
1 pound fresh button mushrooms, chopped
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
melt butter; Sweat onion for about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté for 2 minutes. Sprinkle flour over the vegetables and stir for a minute while cooking. Add the chicken broth and parsley and stir until well combined. Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. Stir in the milk, cream, salt, pepper, cayenne, and sherry. Heat but do not boil.
Stuffed Pepper Soup
28-ounce can of tomato sauce
28 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups cooked converted or long-grain white rice
2 cups chopped green pepper
¼ cup packed brown sugar
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, brown the beef, then drain. Add remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the peppers are tender.
Cheddary Beer Soup from Wisconsin
Here’s a longtime family favourite, shared years ago by Howe Plumbing of Williamson Street and recently re-requested during another cold winter season.
⅓ cup chopped green onions
8-ounce packet of shredded cabbage
2 10-ounce cans of chicken broth
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cups half and half, heated
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded, about 8 ounces
Melt butter in a large pan. Add onion and cabbage. Cook and stir until the vegetables become translucent. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Add broth and beer and mustard. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Gently add the warm half and half and cheese until heated and cheese melts. Stir to prevent burning.
Pan fish chowder
If you’re an angler with freshly caught panfish in the fridge or a full freezer, enjoy a taste of summer amid a cold, snow-white Wisconsin winter.
6 strips of bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 pound panfish fillets (bass, sunfish, or crappie) cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup half and half cream
In a 3-quart saucepan, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and set aside; discard all but 2 tablespoons of drops. Sauté onion and celery in skillet until soft. Add the next eight ingredients. Simmer for about 30 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add fish and bacon; Simmer for 5 minutes. Add fish and bacon; Simmer for 5 minutes or just until the fish flakes with a fork. Add cream and heat.
Here’s a recipe from the North Carolina & Virginia Peanut Growers Association that might become popular with the little ones in the family.
2 tablespoons grated onion
1 stick of celery, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped peanuts
Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat; Add onion and celery. Fry for about 5 minutes. Add flour, mix well. Stir in the chicken broth, simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove from the stove, strain the broth. Stir the peanut butter, salt, and lemon juice into the strained broth until well combined. Serve hot in mugs. Garnish each cup with chopped peanuts.
Butternut Squash Soup
After more than a few butternut squash soup recipes were discovered in the past month, this is the only one that features “tart green apples” and can be found in the Food Editors’ Favorite Recipes cookbook.
1 medium butternut squash (about 1 pound)
3 tart green apples, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
¼ teaspoon rosemary or marjoram
3 10-ounce cans of chicken broth
¼ cup cream or half and half
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
peel and deseed the pumpkin; to cut in pieces. In a large, heavy saucepan, combine squash with apples, onions, rosemary, salt, pepper, stock and water. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Return the mixture to the saucepan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat. Add cream before serving. Serve hot and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley.
Correction: Last week’s recipe for German sauerkraut soup with 1 cup of Riesling wine should have been 2 cups of the wine.
Contact Cooks’ Exchange at the hands of the Wisconsin State Journal, PO Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at [email protected]