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Tomato Bread Soup

bread soup 2.jpgThis is an uncomplicated comforting soup to eat on a cold early spring day.  It's warm and filling without being heavy.  My mother said the pieces of bread in the soup were like eating clouds.  Seriously, I'm not kidding you, she really said that.  Best thing?  It gets even better by the second day. 

If you have a lot of home canned tomatoes this is an excellent recipe to make with them.

Tomato Bread Soup
serves 8


1/2 cup olive oil
1onion, diced
2 quarts diced or stewed tomatoes (use the juice too)
1 quart vegetable broth
1/4 cup red wine
8 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano
30 grinds of pepper
1 day old baguette, torn into small pieces


Heat the olive oil in a soup pot on med/high heat, then add the onion and saute until it slightly browns.  Add the tomatoes, broth, red wine, salt, oregano, and pepper.  Turn the heat down to med/low. 

Cook for twenty minutes.

Remove from the heat and puree the soup with an immersion blender OR let it cool down and then blend it in a blender and then return it to the pot.

Put the soup back on the stove, bring to a brief boil, then turn the heat to low and add the bread to it.  Stir it in well and let it cook for ten more minutes.  The bread should be completely saturated and soft but not disintegrated.  If you used particularly hard stale bread you may need to let it cook a little longer.

It is very good just like this but I like to serve it with grated Parmesan.

another bread soup 2.jpg
Recipe notes:  You can substitute commercially canned diced or stewed tomatoes - use 2 28 oz cans in place of the quarts.  It's not precisely  the same number of ounces but it won't hurt the recipe at all.  If you use fresh oregano then use a tablespoon of minced in place of the tsp of dried.  If you make this in the summer time you can use 4 1/2 pounds of fresh tomatoes with the seeds squeezed out. 

If you object to cooking with wine (or don't have any on hand) you can substitute red wine vinegar for it - don't leave it out if you're using home canned.  If you use commercially canned tomatoes you can leave out the wine or vinegar all together, though I don't think you should. 

Don't cut down on the olive oil amount.  This is such a simple soup and the olive oil adds a very important richness to it.  It's not so very much per person when divided into 8 portions.

This recipe isn't gluten free but I'd love it if one of my gluten free friends would try making it with gluten free bread and tell me if it's good! 

This is a vegan recipe.

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Spinach and Nettles Spanakopita (crustless)

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spanakopita 2.jpgThe egg rose to the top there making this look more like a quiche.  I believe this happened because my greens were still a little too wet.  It's not at all like a quiche.  When making it in a pie dish this didn't happen.

I have eaten a lot of spanakopita in my life.  I'm just saying this right now so you will understand that I know what it tastes like.  I wanted to make a crustless version of spanakopita and shared this ambition with my mother who at once let me know that without the crust it simply can't be spanakopita.  I argued that what makes a spanakopita spanakopita isn't the crust but the filling of spinach and feta and onions and dill. 

After some fruitless brangling over this it was revealed that my mom just doesn't see the point of spanakopita without the crust because she loves the crust.  I got the distinct feeling that if I put a plain wilted spinach leaf on a succulent nest of golden filo she would accept it as the real deal.  I'm not a dab hand at working with filo so I made a spanakopita with a buttery pate brisee for her.  She did agree that the filling was exquisite and tasted exactly like spanakopita.

Next I made it without a crust and she saw the point of it after all. 

Just as I was experimenting with this recipe spring happened.  With early spring in Oregon comes nettles season!  I don't love the taste of stinging nettles.  Lots of people rave about it but I think it tastes like sea weed, that's one of the few vegetables I truly can't tolerate.  I'm motivated to keep trying to find ways to use nettles because of their dense nutritional content.  Nettles have been eaten in early spring by people for hundreds of years (possibly forever, but definitely for hundreds) in soups and teas.  At the end of winter people who didn't have access to luscious produce from Chile were really in need of a boost to their steady diet of dried/stewed meats and root vegetables. 

At last I have found the recipe to use them in where the taste doesn't come through but I get the benefit of the the nutrition.  I added two cups of dried nettles to the spinach (and chard when I don't have enough spinach) and it still tastes exactly like traditional spanakopita.  After I go on my first foraging hunt for fresh nettles I will make this again and report to you how much fresh to add to this recipe if you can get your mitts on it.

If you like your spanakopita with a crust you can just use this recipe as your filling.

My mom couldn't stop eating it.  Cause it's that good.  Argument solved. 

pot of spinach 2.jpgTwo pounds of spinach seems like a lot.  Until it's all cooked.  This big pot full becomes insignificant.

dry nettles 2.jpgIt's nettle season right now in some places and I ought to have made this recipe with fresh nettles so I could tell you how much to use if you have fresh on hand.  However, I haven't gotten out to forage yet so I'm using what I dried from last year.  Notice that I haven't crushed my dried nettles nor have I tamped them down.

squeezed cooked greens 2.jpgSee how little it looks?  Still, divided in six this is one heck of a good serving of greens!

Spinach and Nettles Spanakopita (crustless)

Serves 6 - 8 if made in a pie dish
Serves 4 in 8oz ramekins


2  lbs spinach (or mix of spinach and chard)
2 cups dried nettles
3 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 tsp dried dill
1 tsp salt
30 grinds of pepper
8 oz feta (crumbled)
2 eggs
1 tbsp butter (for greasing the baking dish)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Wash and stem your fresh greens (especially if you use some chard).  Bring the water to boil in a large pot and add all your greens and dried nettle to it.  Boil the greens (be sure to stir them well so the nettles get immersed) until tender (about ten minutes). 

Drain the greens in a colander (and save the boiling water for use as soup stock for later).  When the greens are cool enough to handle squeeze all the water out of them that you can.  Chop and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pan.  Add the onions and saute until translucent.

In a medium sized bowl whisk the eggs, dill, salt, and pepper with a fork until well mixed.  Add the greens, onion, and feta and stir again until completely mixed.  Spoon into a buttered pie dish or buttered ramekins and bake for 40 minutes. 

spanakopita diff view 2.jpg

Recipe Notes:  (Oh, you thought there were plenty of notes in the beginning?)  I like this best cooked in the pie dish.  Alternatively you could use a square baking dish and cut it in squares.  You could make this with any greens that cook up really tender, so what I'm saying is PLEASE DON'T USE KALE.  Traditional spanakopita is all spinach (hence the name "spinach pie") but I made this twice with a mix of spinach and chard (because I didn't have enough spinach) and it was just as good.  You could, if you're a big fan of kelp flavor, do this dish entirely with nettles. 

This recipe is gluten free.

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Navy Bean and Dandelion Green Salad Recipe

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bean salad 2.jpg
I love cold salads made with navy beans (very small white bean) or cannelini beans (a bigger white bean favored in Italian food) because they have a mild bean flavor which pairs perfectly with many summery herbs and vegetables.

This salad is best made in early spring when you can pick very young dandelion greens which are the most tender and least bitter.  If you're interested in making it now, look for brand new dandelion plants amongst the bigger ones or simply limit yourself to the smallest inner leaves.  You only need a handful.

I cook my beans from dried, rather than canned, but either will do perfectly well.  Because I make my own I always add a chopped onion and some thyme while the beans are cooking (you can see a bit of cooked onion in the picture).

Navy Bean and Dandelion Greens Salad Recipe
serves 6


4 cups cooked navy beans (or 2 16oz cans)
1/4 red onion diced very small
1 handful of minced dandelion greens
1/4 cup prepared mustard vinaigrette*
1 tsp salt


Mix all of the ingredients together well.  That's it.  It's more of an assemblage than a method. 

May be served room temperature or cold.

*Use your own favorite home made vinaigrette or use my recipe for mustard vinaigrette.

Variation:  when in season you can add one whole chopped cucumber or a large tomato.  Other herbs can be added as well such as parsley (I'd use a tablespoon of minced fresh parsley) or fresh chopped thyme (I'd use a teaspoon) or basil (I'd use a 1/4 cup julienned).

This recipe is gluten free: provided the vinegar you use in the dressing is gluten free.

This recipe is vegan.

Here are some other articles you might be interested in:

Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale): Plant Profile

Mushrooms, Dandelion Greens, and Pasta in a Cheese Sauce

Mustard Vinaigrette Recipe

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pasta with chives 2

1 lb finely chopped mushrooms (finely chopped)
1 large fistful of dandelion greens (finely chopped)
1 tbsp of olive oil
3 round tbsp flour
3 tbsp butter
2 tsp salt
20-40 grinds of pepper (to your taste)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
3 cups milk (I use 2%) (warmed)
2 cups gruyere cheese (grated)
1 lb of Rotelli pasta

 mushrooms 2


In a sauté pan, on med/high heat, warm the olive oil.  Add the finely chopped mushrooms.  Sauté until the juices are released and have cooked off.  Add the chopped dandelion greens.  Cook just until the greens are wilted.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Put a pot of salted water on to boil in a large pot for the pasta.   Keep your eye on it while making the cheese sauce.


Combine the flour, salt, and peppers in a ramekin and mix it together with a spoon (or a tiny whisk if you have one).  Warm the milk either in the microwave or on the stove top so it will be ready when you need it (do not boil it!).  Have the cheese already grated.

(When the salted water boils, add the pasta and cook for the recommended time, usually about 10 minutes for Rotelli, then drain.)

In a medium saucepan, on medium heat, melt the butter.  As soon as the butter begins to bubble whisk the flour into it.  It should have a paste-like consistency.  For two minutes continue to whisk the flour paste in the pan not allowing it to brown.

Now slowly add the warmed milk while continuing to whisk briskly to prevent lumping (be sure to whisk into the corners of the pan too).  Once the milk has been thoroughly combined with the paste, it will begin to thicken.  It is crucial not to let the sauce boil.  Whisk frequently until it has thickened to the consistency you like your cheese sauce to be.

Remove from the heat.  Gently stir the cheese into the sauce until it is all melted.

Using the pot you boiled your pasta in, combine your drained pasta, the cheese sauce, and the sautéed mushrooms and greens.  Taste for salt and pepper.

Serve hot with a garnish of chive flowers.

Recipe Notes: Mushrooms- you can use any kind of mushrooms in this recipe.  Use wild ones if you have them, or a combination of wild and cultivated, such as Crimini or white button mushrooms.  Since I don't know how to forage for them in my region and can't afford to buy wild, I usually use Crimins which are my favorite.
Cheese- Gruyere or Emmental are fantastic choices to accompany the mushrooms.  However, I can't afford to buy those here so I generally use a very sharp aged cheddar.  Don't use a cheese that is too mild (such as jack or medium cheddar) because the flavor will be lost in the cream sauce. It doesn't take long to make the cheese sauce so it's important to have the pasta cooking at the same time.  The only exception to this is if you are using an angel hair pasta that only takes three minutes to cook.  My best advice with this dish is to have all your ingredients out and ready to go so you waste no time looking for things or measuring.

 mushroom cheese pasta 2

Not sure why you would want to use dandelion greens?  Find out here: Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale): Plant Profile

Cilantro, Bean, And Rice Salad


This is a great spring dish that uses the first fresh cilantro of the season to dress a melange of items from the pantry. You could make it in the summer too when there is fresh corn and tomatoes to be had but I don't want to think about how much better it will be later when I'm enjoying the spring version now.


Cilantro Pesto Ingredients:
1 large bunch fresh cilantro, washed and stemmed
3 garlic cloves
2-3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Rice Salad Ingredients:
2 cups cooked black beans (or two cans)
2 cups cooked Basmati rice
1 can corn
1 quart diced tomatoes
2 cups grated jack cheese
1 recipe cilantro pesto


To make the cilantro pesto:

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulverize the hell out of it. You're done.

(Or if you like to go the traditional route- put all ingredients in a large sized pestle and mortar and using your muscles, grind the hell out of them all.)

To make the rice salad:

Be sure to drain the canned goods first. Then you put all of the ingredients in a bowl together and stir well. You're finished. Dinner is ready.

Serves 6-8


If you're one of those people who really likes two dishes on one plate, you could serve this rice salad with roasted potatoes, or grilled asparagus. I like it as a simple one dish meal myself. It's great at room temperature but it's also quite good heated. If you don't have black beans, I think it would be superb with chick peas. I also made this with pasta instead of rice and it was WONDERFUL. If you want to add some heat to it you could add chopped up roasted jalapenos. Or chopped pickled jalapenos. What brings it all together is the cilantro pesto. If you are vegan you can make this without the cheese.


Recipe Notes: this recipe qualifies as quick if you have the black beans in a can. I had to make mine from dried which takes time. But cooking the rice takes twenty minutes and you can make the cilantro pesto and grate the cheese while it's cooking.

Recent Comments

  • angelina: We ate it up very fast! read more
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  • Angela (Cottage Magpie): Oh, that sounds gooooood! My favorite soup in all the read more
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