Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday Night Snacks - Pea Soup and Paninis

It's always fun to have good food around for Sunday Night Football or just for a scrumptious, homemade dinner. I made these dishes a couple of weeks ago for my hubby, Dan and friends, Grant and Jamil. They loved it all and there were hardly any leftovers.

Sweet Pea Soup with Homemade Croutons - The idea for this soup came from the Barefoot Contessa at Home cookbook and I was eager to try cooking with leeks, which was new to me. The recipe was easy to follow and I didn't change it around too much except that I left out the fresh mint--the flavor is too strong for me. I also made my own croutons instead of using pre-packaged ones. It was fun and ridiculously easy; see my recipe below.

Homemade Croutons

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 large loaf of crusty bread (I used ciabatta)
An assortment of your favorite dried spices (garlic powder, rosemary, thyme, parsley, etc).
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the bread into 1 inch square cubes and place into a large bowl. Season with a couple of generous dashes of your favorite spices and salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and toss until well incorporated.

Place bread on a large cookie sheet and try to arrange the pieces so that they don't overlap. Then bake them for about 7 minutes. Take out of the oven and flip the bread around so all sides are nice and golden. Bake for another 7 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes. These really make a huge difference in terms of flavor and crunch--and they look pretty too!

The TMP Panini (Tomato Mozzarella Pesto) - This is the simplest thing that you can make to please your guests--and it always works. I've never met anyone who doesn't love the clean, earthy taste of homemade pesto. And when paired with crusty bread, fresh tomatoes, and good mozzarella, you've got a true crowd-pleaser. I infused some drama into this dish by arranging the toasted paninis into their original baguette shape. This seemed to please our guests as they commented with excitement at how nice it all looked.

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 very large semolina baguette (or any other type of baguette that you like)
5 generous slices of good mozzarella cheese. I don't recommend fresh mozzarella because it doesn't melt well
5 thick slices of fresh tomatoes
Homemade pesto - you can use the simple recipe here
Extra virgin olive oil

Pre-heat your panini press or grill pan.

Cut and half the bread into 4 - 5 generous pieces. Smear a good amount of pesto on the base of the bread and then top with mozzarella and tomato. Drizzle both sides of the bread with olive oil and place into the panini press or on the grill pan until nice char marks form (about 3-5 minutes).

Enjoy these dishes. They go well together and it's especially fun to dip the panini into the thick soup. That's how I devoured mine.

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