Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Day in the Country: Italian Style Creamy Fingerling Potato and Sausage Soup with Asiago Tomato and Bell Pepper Bruscetta

As of today we have less than a week of summer left and I’m starting to get a bit anxious about my tomatoes. Even though they are heavily laden with fruit, my prized heirloom plants are starting to look pretty tired. To spur them on, everyday I walk past them and give them a cheery, “Hurry Up!” but they don’t seem to be listening.

I am mostly concerned about the future of the smallest of the green tomatoes that dangle from their long leggy vines. It is looking more and more like I will have to eventually pick many of them and ripen them upside down on my countertop instead of watching them transform to their dark ruby goodness on the vine.  Oh well, that will work too.

In stark contrast to my lazy green tomatoes, now is the perfect time to hit the farmers’ markets for corn, carrots, potatoes and colorful peppers of all kinds. As I found out with a couple of friends last week, the pick your own farms and roadside markets are brimming with serious cooks, happy young families and perfect produce. Be warned though; if you mean business and plan to do some serious picking,visit these places at toddler naptime or bring a flask of vodka to soothe your frazzled nerves.

As per usual, I got swept up and went totally overboard buying everything I put my hands on. I am happy to report that my wild and crazy shopping spree cost me less than $20.00. Life is good.

So, for the past two days it has mostly been a vegetarian’s paradise around my house. The first night I just steamed up a plate of mixed veg and sliced some of those aforementioned heirlooms and we gorged ourselves on simple goodness. Last night was much the same throwing some leftover patty pan squash (the yellow round ones with the green ends in the middle left of the photo) and purple bell pepper strips on top of pizzas that we cooked on the grill. Correction, life is very good.

For supper tonight I’m going to add a little meat to our menu. I’m planning on making a soup by browning off some Italian sausage and then mixing in some exquisite little fingerling potatoes (bottom right in the photo) I have been hiding in the back of our vegetable bin. I’m going to pair this with some bruschetta for a perfect late summer meal. So, before it’s too late, grab a carrier bag and hit the closest farmers' market for some seasonal treasures of your own.

Italian Style Fingerling Potato Soup with Asiago Tomato and Bell Pepper Bruschetta

Fingerling Potato Soup:

1/2 pound mild Italian sausage

1 small sweet yellow onion, sliced into thin strips from end to end

1 large garlic clove, crushed

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 – ½ cups chicken broth

1 pound fingerling (or new) potatoes, cut in bite size pieces

1 bay leaf

1 – 2” piece of fresh rosemary

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 – 1/2 cups half and half

Salt and Pepper to taste

Brown sausage in a large saucepan or Dutch oven set over medium high heat, breaking it up as it cooks. When it is starting to brown, add onion and cook until they are wilted and transparent; add garlic and cook for one minute longer, stirring frequently.

Sprinkle flour over the top of the sausage mixture and quickly stir in. At this point the mixture will be very dry in appearance. While stirring, slowly add the chicken broth; stir until it comes to a boil. Add the potatoes, bay leaf, rosemary and red pepper flakes; bring to a boil before reducing the heat to low, covering and simmering until the potatoes are fork tender, approximately 30 – 40 minutes.

Add the half and half and salt and pepper and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Remove the rosemary stem and bay leaf.  Serve piping hot.

Makes approximately 6 cups which will feed 4 hungry people

*This soup is also great with the addition of a little chopped chard and/or sliced mushrooms.

Asiago Tomato and Bell Pepper Bruschetta:

12 thin slices of a French baguette (or any small rustic bread loaf)

1/3 cup olive oil or softened butter

6 tablespoons grated Asiago cheese (or any other flavorful cheese)

2 large tomatoes, seeds and membranes removed and chopped into small pieces

1 heaping tablespoon finely chopped bell pepper (any color you like)

1 teaspoon very thinly sliced and chopped fresh basil

1 large garlic clove, crushed

1/2 – 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Mist or brush olive oil or butter on both sides of the bread. Place bread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until the bread starts to brown. Remove from the oven, turn over and sprinkle with the Parmesan; return to the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and brown around the edges.

While the bread is toasting, place the tomato, bell pepper, basil, garlic, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper in a medium size bowl. Toss to combine.

Spoon equal amounts of the tomato mixture on top of the toasted bread or serve on the side.

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