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Recipe of the Week: Creamy Wild Rice Soup with Rosemary Focaccia Bread

Posted May 03 2011 12:00am

A few weekends ago we went to visit our friends the VanderMeulens. In addition to taking us to a fabulous Gouda Cheese Farm , Jen also made us a memorable Sunday supper with this hearty wild rice soup. My hubby who is always spewing health and nutrition tidbits started rattling off some of the benefits of wild rice. If you've been reading our blog for any length of time we are crazy about celebrating food created by God that helps our bodies better than any medicine.

Did you know wild rice really isn't rice at all?  Sounds weird but it's actually long-grain marsh grass seed. Wild rice is packed with nutrients and protein. It's especially high in zinc, which is vital for healthy skin, cell growth, sexual and reproductive function, a strong immune system, and blood sugar regulation.

Truth be told, I've been searching out ways to incorporate "wild rice." So far I've only been able to use it in a Thanksgiving Stuffing recipe by Bobby Flay that  has become tradition at our house. I was grateful for Jen's recipe, which I tweaked a little bit to make it my own. The inspiring part about this soup is that it is thick, stick-to-your-insides hearty. It's perfect for those cold winter months but could be served up anytime of the year. I added sausage to my version because I happened to have a package of my favorite Trader Joe's Mango Chicken Sausage in the fridge. (Also, my dad, Mr. Carnivore himself, was coming to dinner so I thought this was an even better way to lure him to love wild rice.) You could choose to make it vegetarian or add the meat.

I am my Italian mother's daughter and I do believe every great meal needs to be accompanied by really amazing bread. I've been tweaking this focaccia bread recipe over the last several months - trying out different flours, playing with yeast and herbs. Let's be real: yeast is finicky and bread making can be tough. I've discovered that if my yeast/warm water/flour mixture doesn't literally bubble over the glass cup within 10 minutes than the yeast is not in good condition. It's worth throwing it out and starting over. Slowly but surely I'm starting to get the hang of it. There is something truly magical about watching the yeast bubble, adding the ingredients, kneading it (or putting my Kitchenaid to the hard work), letting it rise and bake. The rich smell of bread just permeates the house.

My hubby's secret dream is that we would buy a bread mill and grind our own flour and bake our sandwich bread every week. However, we don't have the moolah for a mill or a bread machine and I'm not quite there. I tell him to make a Trader Joe's run. In the meantime though, I will make an occasional loaf and this is my go-to recipe for company or family.

Creamy Wild Rice & Sausage Soup

Ingredients -2 tablespoons olive oil
-1 yellow pepper, chopped
-1 red or orange pepper, chopped
-1 large onion, chopped
-1 1/2 cups carrots, chopped
-1 cup celery (about 3 stalks), chopped
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 teaspoon dried thyme
-1 teaspoon chili powder
-2 teaspoons sea salt
-1 bay leaf
-8 cups chicken broth or water
-1 cup wild rice
-1/4 cup organic butter
-1/4 cup flour
-2 cups whole milk
-1 package Trader Joe's Mango Chicken Sausage (or other pre-cooked sausage of your choice)
-1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional if you want to kick it up a notch)

1. In a large soup pot, heat oil. Chop vegetables.
2. Sweat peppers, onions, carrots, celery and garlic in the pot for about 10 minutes.
3. Add spices: thyme, chili powder, sea salt, bay leaf. 
4. Add chicken broth or water and simmer for 15 minutes.
5. Add rice and simmer on low, covered for 45 minutes.
6. In a separate sauce pan, melt butter and stir in flour. Whisk together 3-4 minutes until a paste forms. Add milk. Allow to bubble cooking until it thickens.
7. Add roux or flour mixture to large soup pot. Cook additional 10 minutes until soup is thick and creamy.
8. Cut up sausage into bite-sized chunks. Stir into soup.
9. Add red pepper flakes to taste.

Makes 10 servings.



Rosemary Focaccia Bread

Ingredients -1 package or 2 tablespoons yeast
-4 cups flour, divided (I prefer all purpose, unbleached, unbromated like Bob's Red Mill or Trader Joe's brand; could use 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour if you want to do a mix)
-1/2 cup lukewarm water

-1 cup water
-3 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
-2 tablespoons organic sugar or honey
-1 tablespoon rosemary sprigs
-1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil + 2 tablespoons extra for brushing

1. Mix together yeast, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup lukewarm water in a bowl or glass measuring cup. Be careful not to get water to hot or it will kill the yeast. Set aside for 10 minutes until the mixture begins to bubble up.2. Meanwhile, measure 3 1/2 cups flour, sea salt and sugar into a large bowl. (If using a Kitchenaid mixture, attach dough hook.)3. Pour olive oil and yeast mixture into the flour mixture. Add additional cup of water. Stir together. 4. Knead for approximately 10 minutes or until dough is smooth. Add flour if it appears sticky. 5. Cover in an oiled bowl and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.6. Position a rack on the bottom third of your oven and place a pizza stone on the rack. Heat oven to 400 degrees.7. Punch down the dough and turn out onto a floured surface. Roll out into a large circle about 1-inch thick. Place on top of pizza stone. Brush with olive oil. Sprinkle rosemary on top along with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. 8. Bake on the stone until golden and crisp approximately 15-20 minutes.
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