Monday, March 11, 2013

Graziano tuscan stew

I feel turrible (my favorite Charles Barkley word) about about last week, I really do. Left you with a SNAFU on Thursday, promised this fine mouthful of the best soup I've ever made (according to Main Man) to end the week on, and then I left you hanging allllll weekend. Shame on me. If you're involved in this snow system that's been moving around the midwest all weekend, I would be extra upset at me at this moment...this stuff is the perfect thing to have simmering on your stove all day watching the white stuff fall. I was pretty sure we were done with all this Winter crud with the birds chirping in the mornings last week, and daylight savings time springing ahead on Sunday, but I guess Mother Nature and Old Man Winter wanted another roll in the hay before giving up for the year...

Looking at these pictures makes my soul do a little hippy dippy dance. This was pretty much a perfect Saturday in my in the morning, a light lunch, nice and sunshine-y day outside with a chilly nip in the air, and an afternoon of cooking! If I have time on the weekends, I generally try to prepare our dinners for the week as much as possible so that there is less cook time and clean up during the week. I love the feeling of having a clean house and a full fridge with dinners planned on Sunday night before getting into the weekly grind. I'm type A like that...

Anyway, I was making a few meals for the following week and noticed I had some graziano in the freezer as well as some veggies in the fridge that weren't slated for digestion in other recipes and probably needed to be used before they were wasted. Soup always comes to mind when I have extra veggies on hand, and why not have some soup simmering while I'm in the kitchen to make my other meals anyhow? I intended to use the noodles that are pictured, but the pot got so full I didn't have room for them...which was sort of a happy accident because the soup was very vegetable-y and lighter than I think it would have been with carbs plopped in it. Here's what you need:

1 lb Graziano sausage (It's a brand of spicy italian sausage made by Graziano Brothers in Des Moines, IA if you've never heard of it...Main Man has actually told me if he got propositioned by a Graziano daughter, he would have a hard time not leaving me to join that family...I've got my eye on those girls!!)
1/2 bag baby carrots, chopped (about 1.5 cups)
1/2 white onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3-4 celery stalks, diced (or about 1 cup)
3 green onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T crushed red pepper
1 T dried basil
8 oz spinach leaves
1 (15.8 oz) can mushrooms, drained
1 (15.8 oz) can great northern beans (canneloni beans would work as well), drained
1 (46 oz) can tomato juice
1 (48 oz) container chicken broth
1 (15.8 oz) can fire roasted tomatoes, with juice
salt and pepper to taste

Obviously, you start with dicing all your veggies up. I had the Graziano sausage and minced garlic browning in a skillet as I chopped.  On another burner, I had a large pot that I added the chicken broth and the tomato juice to in order to bring it to a boil while I was chopping. When the liquid is boiling, add all the chopped veggies and let boil for 5 minutes. Bring the soup down to a simmer and add the cooked sausage and garlic, as well as the spices to the pot. Let simmer covered for anywhere from 1-4 hours, I went about 3 hours with mine. The longer you simmer, the better the flavors will melt together and reach one fabtastic taste profile vs. everything tasting like its individual state.
Main Man came home from doing some errands and was raving about this stuff! He said it was by far the best soup I've ever made, and it might be in his top 5 of favorite things I've made to date. That's a pretty aggressive assessment for a soup, especially for a meat and taters man like my hubs. The best part is smelling the soup simmering all afternoon though...nothing smells like home more than soup simmering on the stove on a chilly day. Serve with some dippy bread and have yourself a little warm up in this little snowstorm we've got going on...hopefully it's our last!!

No matter how great a soup is, Main Man and I would take a full week to eat a batch this large, so I always freeze a large portion of it to pull out and simmer on another chilly day. They are dated and labeled, and I'm pretty excited to surprise Main Man one of these coming days with another dose of his new favorite soup with no extra effort at all from me. I win! Happy Monday, all...

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