Basil Vegetable Soup

Basil Vegetable Soup

A quick and simple healthy soup that’s perfect for a weeknight meal. Adapted from “The Art of Good Cooking,” any mix of vegetables could be used and the frozen green beans could be replaced by peas, broccoli, or any combination of mixed vegetables. I added tomato because I find it almost impossible to eat basil and Parmesan without tomato. I like to think of it as an Italian style ramen soup. Enjoy.


1 can (15.5oz) cannellini beans or white beans
3 carrots, peeled and cut into thin rounds
3 small zucchinis, halved and sliced
1 package (10 oz) frozen green beans
2 quarts vegetable broth or chicken broth
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry vermicelli (rice noodles)
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh basil
1 large tomato, diced
grated Parmesan cheese


Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add a little of the liquid from the can of beans. Add sliced carrots and zucchini, saute for 1 minute. Add beans, garlic, frozen beans, tomato, salt, and pepper. Saute one minute more. Add broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender. Check seasoning and correct if necessary. Add vermicelli and simmer until just barely tender.

While soup is cooking, chop basil finely. When vermicelli is tender, remove soup from heat and add basil.

Serve with grated Parmesan and chopped basil.

Serves 8-10.


Bavarian Apple Pancake

Apple Pancake Slice

Another lovely unpublished recipe from the archives of Paula Peck. Cinnamon, sugar, and apples – what’s not to like? This is a very simple recipe that reminds me more of an apple pie than a pancake. After deciphering the faded typewriter version with it’s hand written edits, I noticed that the recipe directions completely left out 3 of the ingredients listed. I kept re-reading the recipe as if these ingredients were hidden somewhere amongst the four sentences of instruction. Thanks to it’s simplicity, I didn’t need to think twice about where to add them but I was intrigued by the idea that the recipe was so raw that I needed to add more than just the finishing touches. In addition to mixing in the missing ingredients with the remaining dry ingredients, I increased the sugar to 1 tablespoon. The resulting puffed pancake has just enough sweetness to balance the tart apples but can still be eaten with syrup or fresh fruit.

I’m not sure what makes it Bavarian, maybe because it’s baked? Or maybe it’s as bavarian as French fries are French. Either way, this applicious pancake is a sweet way to start or end your day.

3 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tart apples (granny smith)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons cinnamon sugar (see note)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Beat eggs. Add flour, sugar, and salt, beating in well until no lumps remain. Beat in milk.
Peel apples, cut in half, and remove cores. Cut in slices 1/8 inch thick.

Melt butter in heavy 9″ oven proof skillet. Arrange apples and sprinkle with lemon zest. Allow apples to cook in butter 3-4 minutes.

Remove from heat and pour in prepared batter.

Bake for 15 minutes. Lower heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake another 15 minutes until pancake is puffed and brown.

Serve with cinnamon sugar, melted butter, maple syrup, or fresh fruit.

Makes one large 9″ pancake (serves about 6).

Note: Cinnamon Sugar can be made by simply combining 1 cup granulated sugar with 1 tablespoon cinnamon.


Pizza Pennies

Pizza Pennies

I made these bite size cuties in honor of the Super Bowl. The crunchy, chewy, garlicky game day or party food seemed to disappear before they could make it off the baking sheet.  I surprisingly found this recipe in the hors d’oeurves section of “The Art of Fine Baking.” The dough is a Cuban bread recipe that my grandmother describes as “a crusty, delicious water bread. It was made popular by James Beard in his cooking classes, where students particularly enjoy making it because it is so quickly and easily learned.” It’s a versatile dough that can be used for rolls, garlic knots, or my new favorite concoction, “pizza bread.”

The toppings of these little pizza pennies are really up to you. The original recipe just used pepperoni, onion, garlic, and olive oil. I think that tomato, mozzarella, and basil make a nice addition as would Parmesan, olives, green pepper, or any traditional pizza toppings. Mixing the toppings together before piling them onto the pennies will save time but if you want to customize each one than the traditional one topping at a time approach will have to do (though a bit tedious…). Either way, these are fun not fussy, and almost too easy to eat so make sure your game plan includes making enough for everyone.


1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 Cuban Bread dough
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Suggested Toppings: 3-4 cloves garlic minced, 60-70 thin slices sausage (pepperoni, salami, or freshly cooked Italian sausage), 1/2 an onion chopped, 1 medium tomato chopped, 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella, fresh basil chiffonade, dried oregano

Sprinkle baking sheets with cornmeal. After bread dough has risen once, roll it out 1/8 of an inch thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut rounds 1 1/2 inch in diameter. Place on baking sheets. Dab or brush each round lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with toppings.

Place in cold oven. Set temperature to 425 degrees. Bake about 15 minutes or until pennies are puffed and golden. Serve warm.

Makes about 6 dozen.


Cuban Bread (or Bread Rolls)

2 packages of dry yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 cup warm water
4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal

Combine warm water, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top. Let stand a few minutes until yeast begins to foam. Stir in flour to make a stiff dough. Knead dough well, until it is completely smooth and elastic, adding more flour if necessary.

Place dough in bowl sprinkled with flour. Dust top of dough with flour. Cover bowl with a dish towel. Let rise in a draft-free place until dough has doubled in bulk, about 40 minutes.

Punch down dough. Divide into 2 or 3 pieces. Shape by stretching and rolling each piece of dough into a long sausage about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place loaves on ungreased baking sheet which has been sprinkled with cornmeal.

Slash each loaf diagonally across top 3 or 4 times. Brush with water.

Place on lowest rack in a cold oven. Turn oven on and set to 350 degrees. Bread will rise in oven. Bake 1 hour or until bread is a deep golden brown.

Makes about 2 medium size loaves.

Note: To make rolls, roll pieces of dough into long snake like logs after dough has risen once. Bring ends together and twist. Tuck ends under. Allow to rise again until doubled. Bake on a baking sheet sprinkled with corn meal in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden on top.


Heavenly Chocolate Cubes

Adapted from “The Art of Fine Baking,” bite size chocolaty sponge cake sandwiches filled with mocha buttercream. Need I say more?

1 recipe prepared Chocolate Pastry
1 cup Speedy Mocha Buttercream
unsweetened cocoa powder

Divide pastry in half to make two equal layers. Spread one layer with buttercream. Carefully place remaining layer on top. Chill until buttercream is very firm (about 1 hour).

Dust top heavily with cocoa powder. Cut cake into 1 inch cubes, wiping knife off after each slice.


Dip sides of each square into cocoa, coating them well.

Yield: approximately 80


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