Delicious + Nutritious Tuscan Bean Soup

It’s January and its Minnesota. A healthy, delicious soup is just the comfort food your fitness goals and the weather call for! This Tuscan White Bean, Sausage and Veggie Soup will feed a family or provide a few meals for one or two! Skip to the end to read my “quick and easy” note, which was the path I chose for our Mediterranean Lifestyle cooking class tonight! This soup pairs beautifully with a Chardonnay (sparkling or still) or Pinot Noir.

Ingredients

2 T vomFASS San Domenico Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 pound Italian sweet or spicy sausage, casing removed

1 medium onion, chopped

2 large carrots, diced small

2 large potatoes, diced small

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Viola’s bay leaf

2 (15 ounce) cans white cannelini beans

2 small bunches of kale, ribs removed and roughly chopped

8 C. low-sodium chicken stock (read the label to find one that doesn’t have sugar and a bunch of other stuff you don’t want in your soup!)

Violas Feta Seasoning, to taste (at least a couple teaspoons!)

vomFASS Herb Vinegar, to taste

Directions

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add sausage and brown, stirring occasionally to break into smaller pieces, approximately 10 minutes.

Add onion, carrots, potato, and bay leaves salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables begin to soften, stirring occasionally, approximately 10 minutes. Add garlic and beans; cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add kale and cook until slightly wilted. Add chicken stock, season and cover with lid.

Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat and keep at a simmer for about 45 minutes, although a bit longer is completely fine. The soup will thicken as the potatoes begin to release their starch into the soup. Serve with a splash of Herb Vinegar.

Vegetarian option: eliminate sausage; replace San Domenico EVOO with vomFASS Smoky BBQ EVOO.

Fast and easy: Use pre-cooked Italian sausage (I used Chicken Italian sausage from Fresh Thyme Market), and pre-minced garlic. Add all ingredients, including olive oil, to crock pot or pressure cooker and cook as appropriate to appliance type. I used an Instant Pot on High Pressure setting for 6 minutes. Don’t forget that pop of Herb Vinegar right before eating!

Even Skinnier: Replace potatoes and carrots with a variety of other veggies, such as chopped or spiralized zucchini, cauliflower, shredded cabbage, celery, fresh fennel, or tomatoes.  Reduce cooking time to adjust for higher water content veggies.

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Summer Harvest Menu #1

My favorite foodie time of year has arrived – summer harvest! It’s the perfect time to explore new easy, delicious and healthy veggie dishes. It’s also a great time to host a laid-back, al fresco dinner party for all the friends you’ve been meaning to connect with this summer. The recipes from our EDH Meals cooking class this week are great additions to a late summer party menu!

Baba Ghannooj Serves 8eggplant
(Inspired by Barbara Stafford’s Eclectic Entertaining cookbook.) 

Ingredients 

2 large eggplants
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
4 t. minced roasted garlic
2 T. vomFASS Sesame Oil
¼ C. vomFASS Calamansi Balsam Vinegar
2 t. vomFASS Asia Tandoori spice blend
1 t. vomFASS Himalayan Sea Salt
Parsley, cilantro or diced tomatoes for garnish
Pita bread, corn chips and/or veggies for dipping, such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, cucumber, zucchini, bell peppers.

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake eggplant about 40 minutes until soft. Cool, peel, cube. Process all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. Taste and adjust salt, as needed. Serve at room temp with crackers, pita bread or veggies.

Charred Corn Salad with Basil Vinaigrette Serves 6 – 8
(Inspired by Kelly Nixon’s recipe on The Cooking Channel

Ingredients

Charred corn salad Minnesota Food vomFASS Mall of America
Photo credit: The Cooking Channel

6 – 8 ears fresh corn on the cob, shucked
1 small red onion, diced
1 ½ C. packed fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T. vomFASS Herb Garlic Sunflower Oil
vomFASS Danish Smoked Sea Salt
and Peppercorn Mix
¼ C. vomFASS Apple Balsamic Vinegar
¼ C. vomFASS Pepone Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 (10-ounce) container small heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved

Directions

Preheat grill to 450 degrees. Brush or rub each cob with Sunflower Oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the corn on the hot grill and char each side, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Set corn aside until cool enough to handle. Stand each ear up, stalk end down, in a wide, shallow bowl and, using your knife, slice the corn kernels off the cob.

Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. In a food processor, add the basil and garlic and pulse until the basil starts to break down. Add the vinegar. Continue pulsing while adding the oil in a steady stream and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine corn, tomatoes and onion. Drizzle the vinaigrette over salad and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Roasted Vegetable Medley Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients

5 cups assorted vegetables, cut into bite sized pieces, such as:
Broccoli, Cauliflower and carrots OR
Zucchini, yellow squash, bell pepper and onion
vomFASS Porcini Extra Virgin Olive Oil
vomFASS Argentina BBQ spice blend, to taste
vomFASS Aceto Balsamico di Famiglia

Directions

Place vegetables in large mixing bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Spread onto baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with seasonings.  Roast at 450 degrees until tender-crisp (10 minutes for porous veggies, up to 20 minutes for more dense veggies). Add more salt and pepper to taste.

Tapas – vomFASS style Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients

Corn tortillas
vomFASS Porcini Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or your choice)
1 – 2 Avocados
Cheese of choice, shredded or crumbled (optional)
Baba Ghannooj or hummus, roasted veggies, charred corn salad, shredded pork or chicken, or steak strips (ask about marinating ideas!)tapas Minnesota food vomFASS Mall of America

Directions

Heat corn tortillas on grill or in oven or microwave. Keep warm bet ween two plates or other covered dish. Top with Baba Ghannooj, roasted veggies, Charred Corn Salad, cheese and/or toppings of choice. Add seasonings to taste: Sea Salt, Pepper, Asia Tandoori, Argentina BBQ, etc.

Honey Balsamic Pears with Walnut Oil and Gorgonzola Serves 4

Ingredients

2 pears, halved and cored
¼ C. vomFASS Pepone EVOO
¼ C. vomFASS Honey Balsamic Star
¼ C. vomFASS Walnut Oil
2 T. Gorgonzola Cheese crumbles
1 t. vomFASS Chai Masala

Directions

Place pears and Chai Masala on a pan, brush with olive oil. Grill, cut side down, for 4 – 5honey balsamic pears recipe Minnesota food vomFASS Mall of America minutes. Turn and grill another 3 – 4 minutes. Remove pears from heat and place on serving dishes. Add gorgonzola, drizzle with Honey Balsamic Star and Walnut Oil.

Alternative for a crowd: cut pears into large cubes. Combine pears, olive oil, vinegar and Chai Masala in bowl. Place on a pan and grill or roast until tender crisp. Transfer pears and juices to serving bowl and toss with Walnut Oil and Gorgonzola. Dish up in dessert bowls or cups.

Wine pairing recommendations: Tempranillo, Chianti or Lambrusco, all available at vomFASS at Mall of America.

Chili Mango Shrimp & Sautéed Green Beans

The food has to been delicious and satisfying, especially when I’m giving my img_1503body a break from carbs and sugars! I see it as an opportunity to step up my menu planning to meet the challenge. So far, so very good!

Chili Mango Shrimp  Serves 4

Ingredients
24 raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 T. vomFASS Chili Sunflower Oil (may substitute Lemon EVOO for all or part of Chili Oil for less spicy)
2 T. vomFASS Mango Balsamic Star
1 clove minced garlic
½ t. vomFASS Texas BBQ spice blend
½ t. vomFASS Himalayan Sea Salt
Freshly ground vomFASS Garlic Pepper Whole Blend, to taste
Cilantro, chopped, as garnish

Directions
Combine oil, vinegar, garlic, half the salt and a few cranks of pepper in a glass bowl with cover or zip top bag. Add shrimp and marinate 15 – 20 minutes. Do not marinate longer, as shrimp will break down in the acidity.  Empty contents of bag or bowl into hot stir-fry pan. Toss just until cooked through. Finish with additional sea salt and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately or chill to serve as an appetizer. In the unlikely event of leftovers, try tossing with salad greens and drizzle with a dressing of oil and vinegar.

Garlic Sautéed Green Beans Serves 4

Ingredients
1 lb. Fresh green beans
2 T. vomFASS Garlic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
vomFASS Danish Smoked Sea Salt, to taste
Freshly ground vomFASS Garlic Pepper Whole Blend, to taste

Directions
Steam green beans to tender crisp, about 3 – 4 minutes. Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium burner. When the oil is shimmery, add green beans. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss until beans are lightly browned/blackened.

How to ID authentic EVOO

Pouring olive oil in the salad over a spoon

The news is full of information about extra virgin olive oil. On the one hand, we read and hear about the benefits of incorporating more high quality extra virgin olive oil into our diets for healthier hearts, brains and general well-being. On the other hand, there are reports that up to 70 percent of extra virgin olive oil on U.S. store shelves may not be 100% authentic. In fact, it may not even be olive oil! What’s a health-conscious, earth-aware consumer to do?

My advice is to find a reputable source you can trust, such as vom FASS, and stick with it. While this statement may seem self serving (since we sell extra virgin olive oil at vom FASS) you may use the following three questions to help you evaluate the authenticity and quality of olive oil from any source.

Q: Where does the olive oil come from?  The more information that is available, the more likely it is to be reliable. 
– Wholesalers or directly from growers and producers?
– Country of origin and region within a country?
– Specifically which olive groves and trees?
– Who is the grower and where is it pressed?

vom FASS Answer:
We have long-term relationships directly with family growers and small producers in Italy, Greece, Spain and France from whom we source our extra virgin olive oil. vom FASS selects supplier partners whose sustainable and ethical production philosophy match our own high standards. The founder of vom FASS in Germany and vom FASS staff personally visit olive oil growers before harvest to inspect the quality of the olives to determine whether vom FASS will include that harvest in our offerings. As a vom FASS owner, I’ve had the opportunity to visit vom FASS product suppliers to see for myself where the trees grow that produce our olive oils and meet the growers and producers.

Our short, controlled supply chain (grower to presser to vom FASS) eliminates the opportunity for tampering along the way. The packaging includes the relevant IGP designation that guarantees a product originating from a region or a country whose quality, recipe and characteristics can be traced back to its geographical origin, as well as controlled organic certifications, as applicable. Finally, in our own food laboratory (vom FASS Germany), state-certified food experts continuously monitor the quality of our products.

Q: How has the olive oil been handled?
– How are the olives picked?
– How much time elapses between picking and pressing?
– What is the pressing method?
– How much time between pressing and packaging?
– How is the product packaged?
– How long before the product ends up on the store shelf?
– How is the product stored on the store shelf for tasting and purchasing?

vom FASS Answer:
Our suppliers hand pick their olives and quickly and carefully transport them to be pressed locally within 24 hours of picking, so there’s no chance of pre-crushing or fermentation due to transportation or storage. The olives are mechanically (no chemicals) cold-pressed according to the EU and International Olive Council‘s designation and definition of “extra virgin.” Our oils are unfiltered, with the exception of Pepone, which is lightly filtered.

The oil is immediately packaged and sealed in vom FASS’s unique “bag in box” (BiB) system, labeled with origin and specific batch information and shipped to vom FASS. The sealed BiB is not opened again until it is tapped in a vom FASS shop. Even after tapping it, the oil remains in that BiB on our shelves in our beautiful Amphora (crocks), protected from air, heat and light until the customer samples the fresh taste and purchases the bottles we fill for them.

vom FASS manages inventory forecasting to ensure we are able to get the new harvest oils on our shelves as soon as they are available. This means our customers have the unique opportunity early each year to taste very fresh extra virgin olive oils just a couple of months after the olives are picked, when it has a very green, grassy and pungent flavor. That “green” taste mellows out after a few months.

Q: How does the olive oil smell, taste and look? 

vom FASS Answer:
There are five key factors that determine the flavor of olive oil (a future article!), but in general, the following characteristics can help you identify authentic, fresh, quality extra virgin olive oil:

  • Sniff it: you should notice a fresh, green or fruity aroma. If it smells “off” or rancid, stop there. Hay, cardboard, vinegar, mud and mustiness are some of the aromas that indicate an olive oil has gone bad. It has to pass the “smell test” before you even consider moving on to a taste test. Read more about identifying rancidity or “fusty” olive oil.
  • Taste it: Open your mouth, breathe in to dry your palate, and then take a little sip of oil from a spoon or glass – yes, just the oil! Real, quality olive oil should have a flavor – green, grassy, fruity, peppery, pungent, bitter – all of these flavors are hallmarks of good extra virgin olive oil. No flavor or a musty taste or greasy mouth feel are not good signs of a fresh, quality olive oil. Read more about tasting olive oil.
  • Visually evaluate it:
    • Your first visual cues should include the information on the labels:
      • Does the label list any ingredients other than 100% extra virgin olive oil?
      • Does it identify the geographic origin? The more specific the better.
      • Does it state DOP, PGI (Protected Designation of Origin and quality certification) or IGP (less stringent) indication of geographical protection?
      • What is the best by or harvest date?
      • Is there a batch or other specific identification information?
    • The appearance of the oil itself isn’t necessarily an easy way to pinpoint authenticity, but look for:
      • Color may range from vivid green to gold to pale straw.
      • An unfiltered extra virgin olive oil may be cloudy and/or have sediment. Don’t worry – that’s just more flavor and nutrients!

At vom FASS Mall of America, we are proud of our authentic extra virgin olive oils. We love to talk to you, guide you through the tasting process and help you select the extra virgin olive oil that is right for your palate and recipe!