Posted in daily, food porn, links

In Lieu of an Actual Post I’m Just Going to Skim Through Google Reader and Share Some Links.

You ask where I’ve been and why I haven’t posted in so long, and all I can tell you is, dudes. Busy. I’ve been working like a fiend lately. “Lately” meaning the past five months. I’ve been working a lot of days at my per diem job, and I’m lucky if I get one full weekend off a month, so yeah. Busy. Too busy to clean my house, too busy to visit my family, too busy to do a lot of things, least of all cook a mess of food. But I have kept up with my Google Reader, and my ‘starred items’ folder is positively bursting at the seams with yummy goodness just waiting for me to bust out my saute pan and Kitchen Aid Mixer.

Like this Indian Butter Chicken with Basmati Rice from Sugarcrafter. I’ve only just recently ‘discovered’ Indian food, and butter chicken is a favorite. I’ve also recently ‘discovered’ Thai food, and if you are what you eat, then you’ll soon be reading the blog of a take out container of chicken pad thai.

These Lemony Roasted Potatoes with Garlic are the definition of comfort food around this house, and after my current 19-day stretch of work, work, and more work, I’m going to need some comforting.

Butterbeer Cake, also from Sugarcrafter (I like her). I made these Butterbeer cupcakes for my Oscar party back in February, and they were a huge hit. This recipe is slightly different, but I’d like to try it out, you know, strictly for scientific reasons. Cough. For those of you wondering, “WTF is Butterbeer?”, would it kill you to read a damn book once in a while?

Because you can never go wrong with a classic, Joy the Baker’s Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream sound like a winner. Ovaltine in the frosting? Did NOT see that coming.

I’m trying to branch out of the “sweet cakey treats” realm of baking, and learn how to bake yeast-based goods. These homemade English Muffins from Amy Bites seem like a good place to start.

Peanut Butter Banana Pound Cake with Nutella Glaze. I want to roll around naked in this. Seriously, that’s just obscene.

And lest you think everything on my “to make” list is laden with calories and butter and sugar (and you’d be right), there’s this Ribboned Asparagus Salad from Smitten Kitchen that will be coming out of MY kitchen sometime this weekend. Mmmm, asparagus. How I love you.

And that healthy salad will most likely be followed by these Lemon Sugar Cookies. Because there always needs to be cookies. But for now there is only sleep, and sweet anticipation.

Posted in daily, dessert, food porn, recipe

Peanut Butter Tandy Cakes (Or Candy Cakes)

There’s a baking company based in Philadelphia called Tastykake that makes delicious wrapped treats not unlike  Hostess or Little Debbie. But, dudes. Tastykakes are so. Much. Better. Than. Little. Debbie. They have cupcakes, donuts, mini coffee cakes, delicious things called Butterscotch Krimpets, and my favorite, Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes. They’re a small, round cake topped with peanut butter and enrobed in chocolate.

In other words, heaven.

There’s been a homemade version of the Kandy Kakes around for ages; I only started making them within the past couple of years, and they’ve quickly become a favorite among my co-workers. The homemade version is called Tandy Cakes — I don’t know why, I just make them.

And now you can too!

You’ll need:

1 cup whole milk
4 TB butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt

1 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 or 4 larger milk chocolate bars (I use Cadbury, but you don’t have to.)

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a rimmed baking sheet (jelly roll pan) liberally with cooking spray and set aside.

Scald the milk, butter, and vanilla over medium low heat until the butter is melted and the milk is slightly bubbling. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Blend the eggs and sugar in a mixer well. Add cooled milk mixture and combine completely. Add flour, salt, and baking powder and mix thoroughly.

Spread the mixture in the baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

Take the cake out of the oven and top immediately with the peanut butter by dropping the peanut butter onto the hot cake by the spoonful, allow to melt, then spread.

Put the cake in the refrigerator and allow the peanut butter to set, at least 30 minutes.

Melt chocolate bars over a double boiler or in the microwave in 30 second intervals. Spread melted chocolate over the cooled cake.

Place cake back in the refrigerator and allow to set completely. Cut into squares and serve.

Yum. I need to make these again soon. You know, for my co-workers.

Posted in daily, food porn, recipe, simple suppers

Watermelon Plank Salad

Summer is by far my favorite time of year. Hot weather, sunshine, grilling, lying poolside, garden fresh vegetables…what’s not to love? The only thing I don’t like about summer is when – at least some days – it’s just too damn hot to cook. That’s when I whip out recipes like this, this, this, and sometimes this (Oh, I cannot WAIT for good tomatoes to make that one), because they’re a quick and easy way to beat the heat without sweating over the stove.

And now I’m adding this to my pantheon of ‘Too Hot To Cook’ recipes. You can make as much of this as you want and eat that as your meal, or scale it down for more of a starter/side, like I did tonight. It might seem weird – watermelon? Cheese? Onion? TOGETHER?! I know, I was skeptical too, at first. Then I ate it, and my life was forever changed.
No need for step by step instructions, this is too simple to screw up.
Watermelon Plank Salad

1 large slice of watermelon, cut into 1 inch by 3 inch rectangles (about 4-6 pieces)
1/2 small red onion, sliced very thin
2 Tbs crumbled Feta cheese
1-2TBs balsamic glaze
Arrange watermelon on plate, top with onion, feta, and balsamic glaze. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
I for real made the ‘OMNOMNOMNOM’ noise the first time I ever ate this. You will, too.
Posted in blogging, food porn, recipe

Chicken Marsala

You know that dish, that one dish you make that you never ever need a recipe for? The dish that your friends tell everyone about? The dish that, once you’re finished cooking it, you gaze down upon with a satisfied grin knowing everything is right with the world?

Chicken Marsala is that dish for me.
I made it for the first time quite a few years ago, for my mom’s birthday. It was my first real meal cooking for my parents and I wanted to make something…a little less ‘pedestrian’ than chicken Caciattore or Parmigiana. She had some nameless Italian cookbook at the time and I picked the Marsala recipe because it looked quick and easy yet still impressive enough for a ‘fancy’ home dinner. Over time I’ve changed the way I make it, but it’s a fairly simple dish and the basics are still covered.
Chicken Marsala
1 lb thin sliced chicken breast cutlets
1 lb white mushrooms
1 cup Marsala wine (note: please, for the love of all that is holy, do NOT buy the ‘Marsala cooking wine’ in your grocery store. Go to a liquor store — or the wine section of your grocery store– and buy actual Marsala wine. I don’t want to hear about it if you don’t.)
2-3TB fresh parsley
2 TB fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup flour
2 TB butter
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
Clean off the mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Remove stems and slice thin.
Melt 1 TB of butter in a stainless steel (not non-stick) pan over medium heat. Add 2TB of olive oil and the sliced mushrooms.
Cook until browned, about 7-8 minutes. Add 1Tb lemon juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, just to taste. Remove from pan.
While mushrooms are cooking, pound out the chicken breasts one at a time in a zip top bag.
Dredge in flour seasoned with salt and pepper and set aside. When the mushrooms are finished cooking, add the remaining 2TB of olive oil and cook the chicken, approximately 3-4 minutes on both sides, until slightly browned and cooked through.
Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
Add Marsala to the pan and de-glaze, scraping up all the browned pieces at the bottom of the pan for flavor.
Allow the wine to cook down for approximately 3-4 minutes and add remaining 1 TB of butter. Return mushrooms and chicken to the pan to reheat. Add remaining lemon juice and parsley and serve.
Unf. So simple, so flavorful. My favorite recipe, and most likely the one that helped me realize my love of cooking.
I served it over whole wheat spaghetti tossed with lemon, olive oil, fresh parsley, parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper; also a side of roasted broccoli.
Exactly.
Posted in blogging, daily, food porn

This Does Not Bode Well

Dear food bloggers, you are killing me.

You realize I’m trying to watch what I eat, right? Emphasis on the try. Because it’s hard to eat healthy when you people keep posting all these fantastic recipes. Here I sit, three hours after I’ve eaten my bun-less turkey burger, steamed veggies and brown rice, and I swear my stomach is not just growling but snarling at the sight of all these recipes.

Like this lemon-olive oil cake from The Kitchen Sink. Lemony, not super sweet, and looks fairly simple to make. Bookmarked.

Or Garlic Butter Noodles at The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook, recipe by Steamy Kitchen, whose cookbook I am SO getting ASAP. Simple, buttery, delicious. Makes me want to raid the Asian foods aisle at the grocery store.

OH! And this Lemon Poppy Seed cake from Smitten Kitchen. I’m having a friend over to watch the Dollhouse finale next week, and I’m thinking this might be dessert. Also, I’m apparently craving lemon baked goods right now. mmmmm. Lemon.

Next up, we have two entries from Inn Cuisine at Home. These Snack Mix Bars would be perfect and fun for a snowy Saturday afternooon, and this Caramel Banana Pie is just…obscene. It the most delicious way possible.

I’ve been wanting to try to make my own pasta for a while, and these homemade egg noodles by Cooking with Anne might just push me over the edge. By the way, Anne’s a local girl! I met her briefly last week, she’s so sweet.

Perfect Potatoes Au Gratin, by The Pioneer Woman. Potatoes, cream, butter, and cheese. My four favorite words in the world.

Nutella Milkshake by bell’alimento? Oh, good gravy, YES.

This Key Lime Cake from Baking in Boots? I give up.

So long, turkey burgers. Me and my thighs are throwing in the towel.

Posted in daily, food porn, lack of common sense, recipe

Marathon Manicotti

Tonight something possessed me to make a pan of stuffed manicotti. Don’t ask me why, let’s just roll with it.

I didn’t write down everything I was doing as I did it, so please bear with me on the directions/proportions. Also it’s after ten at night, I ate dinner less than an hour ago, and I am tired.

Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Manicotti

Ingredients:
1 package Manicotti noodles
1 lb Hot or Sweet Italian Sausage
1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 lb ricotta cheese
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 28 oz can tomato puree
1 large onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
6 cloves garlic, diced fine
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
5-6 leaves basil, chopped
dried oregano
dried thyme
fresh ground nutmeg
salt
pepper
olive oil

Start the sauce first: Saute the onion, celery, and carrot over medium high heat in olive oil until softened. Season with salt and pepper. Add four of the diced cloves of garlic and saute a few minutes more. Add crushed tomatoes and tomato puree, stir, and bring to a simmer. Add oregano and thyme, and more salt and pepper to taste. Turn down heat and let sauce simmer, continuing to taste and adjust spices to your liking.

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You can totally skip this step and use jarred sauce, by the way. It would save you at least a half hour.

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Maybe I should have done that.

ANYWAY.

Heat another pan over medium-high heat. Remove sausage from casing (if necessary) and add to the pan. Crumble sausage and cook through. Drain thawed spinach in a sieve or clean kitchen towel thoroughly and add to the sausage. Add in the remaining diced garlic and some grated nutmeg if desired. Saute for two more minutes, and remove from pan. Allow to cool slightly, then stir in ricotta cheese and set aside.

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Set a pan of water to boil for the manicotti. Add a good pinch of salt to the water and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, and drizzle with a little oil to keep noodles from sticking to each other. Allow to cool slightly before handling.

Spray a 13 x 9 x 2 casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray, and layer in half the sauce. Spoon the sausage and spinach mixture into a large zip top baggie and snip off one corner. Squeeze some of the mixture into the opening of the manicotti noodle at each end, taking care to not over fill.

Note: I did not take a picture of this step because I only have two hands, so, you know, visualize, people.

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Lay noodle in sauce & repeat until all filling is used. Top with shredded mozzarella, remaining sauce, and grated parmesan. Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes. Smack yourself in the head for attempting to make this on a weeknight and serve.

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Mess on a plate = ‘maniGOT’! (As my Italian peeps call it)

Notes:

My sauce was a little chunky, so if you’re so inclined, you could run an immersion blender through it or something to smooth it out — especially if you’re serving kids, so they don’t see the veggies.

Please don’t mind the dishes drying in the background on the last photo. I kind of liked the wonky angle and was too lazy to crop them out.

Posted in daily, food porn, recipe, simple suppers

(Whole Grain) Penne alla Vodka

I had this for lunch at a local pizza place a couple of weeks ago, and figured it would be easy enough to recreate at home. Which it was. It was also delicious. You should make it as soon as possible.

Penne with Vodka Sauce

  • 1 pound Whole Grain Penne Pasta
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 4 oz. Pancetta, Cubed
  • 1 whole Shallot, Finely Diced
  • 1 clove Garlic, Minced
  • ¾ cups Vodka
  • 28 oz. Canned Crushed Tomatoes
  • ¼ cups Heavy Cream
  • 4 leaves Basil Shredded
  • ¼ cups Parmesan Cheese, Grated
  • Salt
  • Fresh Ground Pepper

While waiting for pasta water to boil and pasta to cook, brown pancetta in oil over medium-high heat until browned and crispy. Add diced shallot and garlic and saute for a few minutes until softened.

Add vodka to the pan and reduce, allowing alcohol to cook off slightly. Add crushed tomatoes and season according to taste. Stir in cream, basil, and cheese, and toss with cooked pasta. Serve with extra cheese on top.

Side notes: You don’t need to use Grey Goose vodka, but I’d stay away from the Cousin Nick. You want a subtle kick to the sauce, not the flavor of rubbing alcohol. If you prefer to stay meatless, feel free to omit the pancetta and add some frozen peas at the end to bump the veggie factor.

Mangia!

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Printable recipe available here at Tasty Kitchen

Posted in daily, food porn, la familia, sunday dinner

For the Love of Pork and All Pork-Based Products

Did I tell you that my birthday was last week? It was. You missed it. Lucky for you I accept belated gifts.

Last Sunday, I went to my parent’s house to help winterize the pool. Afterwards, Momma San and Big Poppa went to work on my birthday dinner, which was the most magnificent show of Puerto Rican gastro-magnificence (Yes, I just made that shit up.) that I’ve ever been privy to. There was a plethora of pork. It was a Porkapalooza. Pork-tastic. Pork pork pork pork pork. Accompanied by rice and beans, tostones (toast-tonys), and pastelillos (pas-ta-lee-joes).

Mah Birthday Foodz, let me show you them.

Let’s start with the sophisticated set-up:

Dad hooks the propane tank up to some sort of jerry-rigged burner/stand cooker-thing. It’s so the fried food smell doesn’t linger in the house for a week. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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We started with the pastelillos as an appetizer.

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Pastelillos are the Puerto Rican equivalent to empanadas, which are seasoned ground beef in a pastry crust that’s deep fried.

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Like that. They’re my favorite thing ever.

Next up, Big Poppa did the first frying of the tostones, which are deep fried green plantains.

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These are raw plantains. Also a beer.

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These are the plantains after frying once. They’re blanched in the oil once to cook the inside, then flattened between pieces of wax paper. Then they’re fried again until golden brown and crispy.

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We serve them with a mojo ajo (Mo-ho Ah-ho), which is a garlic oil dipping sauce. NOM.

The last thing dad fried up was the carne frita, a.k.a. fried meat.

Here’s how you make carne frita:

1. Dice up pork shoulder.
2. Season pork shoulder.
3. Fry pork shoulder.
4. Eat.

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Bonus points for fried pork skin, or chicharrones.

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They’re usually fried up with a whole onion or two.

While dad and I manned the deep fryer outside, mom was hard at work in the kitchen. She made some red beans and rice, which is not as easy as you think.

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This ain’t no Uncle Ben’s. Puerto Rican rice needs to be babied so it ends up not too gummy or wet, and cooked in the caldero it can burn easily. Believe me, I know.

To serve on top of the rice, mom made habicheulas guisadas, or as I call it, red beans and potatoes.

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It was like Puerto Rican Thanksgiving. But for my birthday. Which you missed.

You really need to go shopping.

Posted in daily, food porn, pop culture musings, recipe, simple suppers

Tomato Crostini

One of my favorite movies to watch when I need a good Ugly Cry is the classic 80’s chick flick Steel Magnolias. It’s got everything, Julia Roberts with big hair and even bigger teeth, Olympia Dukakis in the last decent role she ever had, Daryll Hannah in terrible eyewear, Dolly Parton and her breasts, Sally Field chewing scenery left and right, and Shirley Maclaine.

Have I ever told you how much I love Shirley Maclaine? It’s mostly because of Steel Magnolias. She plays Ouizer (pronounced wheezer) Boudreaux, who is one of the snarkiest, meanest old southern ladies you’ll ever meet. Ouizer keeps it real. She calls you on your shit. She used to dress up as a nun to go bar-hopping. She’ll tell you to take your bible and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. And then she’ll buy you crotchless lingerie for your bridal shower.

I want to be Ouizer Boudreax when I grow up.
Anyway, there’s a scene in Steel Magnolias where Ouizer brings all the ladies tomatoes. Because she doesn’t eat them, you see, she just grows them.
Unfortunately, I’ll never be like Ouizer, because I have a brown thumb, and as many times as I’ve tried, I haven’t been able to grow anything besides weeds in my yard or on my patio. Which is why, when I have a craving for a good home grown tomato, I have to rely on the kindness of co-workers and patients who want to unload theirs. Thankfully, that’s happened a few times this summer, and I was able to get some fantastic meals out of them, like the gazpacho I made last week that still haunts my dreams, and my favorite Panzanella salad. And this recipe, which is kind of a take off on the Panzanella, but more of a portable version.
I got the inspiration for this recipe while I watched Julie and Julia in the theater, during the scene where Julie and her husband discussed what kind of project she could embark on to get her writing career started, the characters seemed to be eating some sort of tomato mixture on grilled italian bread, and I said, “Oh, hell yes. Crostini.”
And then I made it the next day.
This is super simple, and can totally pass for a meal on those ‘too hot to cook’ kind of nights. I’ve made it at least four times since 4th of July.

Tomato Crostini

2-4 tomatoes, 1/2 inch dice
1/4 of a large red onion, finely diced
5-6 leaves of basil chiffonade
1 large clove of garlic cut in half
salt
pepper
extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar
1/2 loaf good crusty italian bread
butter

Instructions:

First, take a look at my big juicy tomatoes! (Sorry. Am twelve.)

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I had found some Heirloom tomatoes at the store this time around and decided to try them. They’re so funky and interesting looking, not like your usual boring mass-produced ‘maters.

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They’re also delicious, and unfortunately…um…a tadmore expensive than regular tomatoes. So these were a rare treat.

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Dice them up and toss them in a bowl.

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This was a pretty good sized onion, if I remember correctly, so I ended up only using a quarter. Red onion is pretty strong when it’s raw.

Now for the basil.

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Grab 5-6 good sized leaves and stack them, one on top of the other.

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Roll the stacked leaves up like a cigar. Or whatever else you might smoke that’s rolled up. (Not that I’d know anything about that.) Apologies for the crap picture, apparently it’s hard to be in focus when you’re rolling basil, and there’s only so much that flickr picnik mode can fix.

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And…chiffonade! Slice down the rolled leaves thinly, leaving little ribbons of basil.

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Toss the basil in a bowl with the tomatoes and onions, add a couple teaspoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil, a couple teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Mix well and set aside.

Heat a saute pan over medium high heat, and add about 2 TB of butter, and 2 TB of olive oil. While waiting for the butter to melt, slice the bread about 1-1 1/2 inches thick.

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Who’s got pretty counter tops? I do!

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Toast bread in butter and oil until browned and crispy. Will smell pretty darn good, too.

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Who’s got a crappy camera? I do!

Rub half of the fresh garlic over the warmed bread, just to get the flavor of the garlic but not the raw taste…trust me, you’ll taste it, this is a great tip (Thanks, Rachel Ray! Suck it, food snobs!)

Top the warm toasty bread with the tomato mixture.

And eat the hell out of it.

Even Ouizer would approve of this one.

Posted in daily, food porn, recipe, simple suppers

Fresh Tomato Gazpacho

I got a big bag of fresh garden tomatoes from a co-worker today, and even though I’ve been making these crazy good crostinis lately (I’m posting that one tomorrow or the next day, promise), I was kind of over them and wanted to try something else. Then it hit me – gazpacho! I’ve never had gazpacho, but I’ve been intrigued with it for a while. The thought of cold soup is a little scary, but I figured, what the heck, it’s fresh tomatoes & some other veggies, how could that be wrong?

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten. I zushed it up a bit.

1 English (or Hothouse) cucumber, halved, seeded, but not peeled.
1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded
4-6 tomatoes, medium sized
1 red onion
3 garlic cloves, minced finely
2 cups tomato juice (NOT V-8)
1/4 c white wine vinegar
1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp ancho chile powder
1/2 Tb kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper

Directions

Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell pepper, tomatoes, and red onions into approximately 1 inch cubes. Pulse each vegetable separately in a food processor until it is coarsely chopped but not over processed (Very important!) . After each vegetable is chopped in the food processor, pour it into a large bowl and combine. Add garlic, tomato juice, lime juice, vinegar, olive oil, ancho chile powder, salt and pepper. Mix well and chill about an hour before serving.

I took some slices of thick crusty bread, brushed them with olive oil, and grilled them on my grill pan until browned, warm, and crispy. I served the soup with a touch of sour cream and a little chopped parsley, and just one little drizzle more of olive oil on the top.

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So. Good.