Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Taste of Florence: Yellow Pepper Soup

When Lee and I were in Florence, Italy we ate at the Cibreo cafe. It is connected to the main Cibreo restaurant and serves some of the same food but is less expensive. A local gave us the tip to go there instead of the restaurant. She told us just to be there right when it opened because the cafe didn't take reservations. Fortunately eating somewhere in Italy right when they open for dinner isn't like rushing to a restaurant here right when it opens and having to eat at 4:30 PM. Cibreo cafe didn't open for dinner until 7:30 PM.

It was one of the best meals, if not the best, we ate during our two-week stay in Italy. I wanted to eat at Cibreo after reading great reviews in travel books and online. One thing it is known for is yellow bell pepper soup. I was really looking forward to trying it but it wasn't on the cafe's menu. I did have their tomato-bread soup and it was divine. It was a very thick pureed soup with loads of flavor. When I came back from Italy I did an online search for yellow pepper soup and found one that is supposed to be like Cibreo's. You can find it here.

I altered the recipe (I usually do alter recipes) a bit including omitting the spinach. It was delicious. It had a thick, creamy consistency like the tomato-bread soup I had at Cibreo and was filled with flavor. Because I omitted the spinach it was a beautiful yellow color. As you can see from the picture above, this time when I made it I added the spinach. It was not as visually appealing as my first batch, but man was it good! I also used one red bell pepper in addition to the yellow one because that is all I had on hand.

There are two ingredients in this soup that may sound a bit strange: nutmeg and lemon juice. Don't even think about omitting these! You will be amazed at what a difference just a touch of both makes to this soup. I add them both at the end after all the other ingredients are pureed and heated again. I also use white onion instead of red and red potatoes instead of yukon gold simply because that is what I usually have in the kitchen.

Looking at the recipe I used as a guideline, I noticed they call for 6 cups of veggie broth. Don't use this much. I used just enough broth (this time I actually used vegetable stock) to reach the top of the vegetables.

The second time I made this soup (this was my third attempt) it was a massive fail. I had taken it to a dinner party too. I think where I went wrong was adding too much broth. It just diluted the flavor of the vegetables. I'm glad I've redeemed myself with this soup tonight. As you can see from the picture I had more tomato bruschetta. The basil had gone bad, but it didn't need it. The tomato was so delicious.

If I ever make it back to Florence, and I sure plan on it one day, I am definitely going to try to taste the yellow pepper soup at Cibreo. Until then, I'll keep making it at home. It will be a great soup to feed to the baby when he starts eating solid foods since it is not too spicy or hot and packed full of veggies.

Tomatoes and Peaches

I am really enjoying both tomatoes and peaches this summer. For the last several nights Lee and I have started off our dinners with tomato bruschetta. It's like summer on a plate to me.

The picture above features bruschetta we actually grilled, but most nights I just toast up the bread in the toaster oven and get it in my mouth as fast as I can. It's real simple:

Slice some crusty bread and toast or grill it. If grilling it, use low heat and brush the bread with olive oil first. It only takes a minute or so on each side on the grill. Slice a good tomato (by good I mean a tasty one from your own garden or the farmer's market and not a supermarket tomato that tastes more like water than a tomato...heirlooms are great). I squeeze out most of the seeds before slicing. After slicing season with salt and pepper. Spread a thin layer of mascarpone cheese (ricotta, goat cheese, or a nice slice of fresh mozzarella would work too) on the toasted or grilled bread. Top with a slice or two of the tomato and then add some fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil.

I have run across peach-tomato salsa in the past while searching the web but never tried it. Since I had tomatoes and peaches I needed to eat I decided to try it. It was pretty good. I'm not gonna lie...I was a bit skeptical. We ate it on top of grilled tilapia. I added onion to the salsa which turned out to be a mistake. Here is what I mixed together for the salsa minus the onion:

1 peach, peeled, pitted, and chopped
1 tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped (I used a yellow heirloom tomato)
1/2 to 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped finely ( I used a few rings from a jar)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp garlic, minced
1 tablespoon or so of chopped parsley (I'm sure cilantro would be very good as well)
drop of lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients and place in the fridge until ready to eat. My tomato and peach were both very juicy so I had a very juicy salsa. It went very well with the grilled fish. Very light and summery.

What did I have for dessert that night? One yummy, juicy peach in all it's glory. I've been eating at least one peach a day. I bought them to grill and top with balsamic glaze and mascarpone cheese, but they are so good just as they are that I don't tamper with them.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Belly Watching

Baby Luke is becoming more active and kicking a lot harder. I lay in bed first thing every morning (this morning I was up at 4:30) and watch my belly as it moves as the baby kicks. The cat watches me watching my belly and eagerly awaits me getting up to feed her breakfast. I eagerly await the moment I can finally meet this sweet little fellow. I wonder what he will be like. What traits will he get from me? What traits from his dad? Still awhile to go, but I hope he stays inside me and doesn't get any ideas about coming early.

The baby gave the nurse a hard time at my appointment this week. She was trying to get a heartbeat reading, but the baby would just not be still long enough. He started kicking, though, and would kick right where she pressed the wand into my tummy. The wand and her hand would move up and a funny sound would come through on the monitor. I would get tickled and then that would make a funny noise as well. We finally got a reading. His heartbeat is now at 145.

He and I are still doing well. I did gain 7 pounds in only 4 weeks (3 more than I need), but I'll start watching my intake of sweets (I need to stop baking cakes and whatnot) and other junky foods. I've also been really good about exercising this week. Been to the gym three times and water aerobics once. My neighbor went with me to water aerobics and loved it as well, so now I've got a buddy to go with me and keep me motivated. My body feels so good that I think I can keep it up. Wish I was as motivated about cleaning and organizing the house.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Owl Clothes

I found the cutest owl-themed baby boy clothes at Babies R Us the other day and added them to my registry. But I was afraid they would not be available by the time my baby showers aproached, so I went back and bought them myself. They were just too cute to pass up. There were four outfits, but I used some will power and only got three. They are made by Koala Baby and are organic.

I bought all three outfits in different sizes. This one is 0-3 months.

This might be my favorite one. I just love turquoise. This one is size 6-9 months.

Lee thought this outfit was hideous. I think it is adorable. I bought it in size 12 months...I can just picture the little guy trying to toddle around the house in it.

I keep telling Lee that I am making a concentrated effort not to overdo it with the owl theme, but I could not pass up these adorable little outfits.