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You Asked For It: It tastes like you're eating at Olive Garden

By ANNE LONG
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 17, 2002


Mary Jump found two Zuppa Toscana recipes on the Internet that are attributed to the Olive Garden Restaurant.

Mary writes that she has tried both and they are the next best thing to being at the restaurant.

Poppy Seed Dressing can be used in fruit salad, in vegetable salad or in other salads.

The classic recipe that comes to mind is Helen Corbitt's that has been served at Neiman Marcus in Dallas for many years.

If you prefer a dressing that is a bit less sweet, Gene Groner's recipe calls for equal amounts of honey and vinegar.

Pat Doubleday's recipe is a spicier version of this adaptable salad dressing.

Jean Guimond shares her banana bread recipe. Brown sugar adds a depth of flavor and Jean's addition of wheat germ makes the bread even more delicious.

* * *

For: Margaret Collver of Clearwater and Marie Jackson of St. Petersburg.

From: Mary Jump of Spring Hill and Trenton, Mich.

Recipes: Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana widely circulated on the Internet.

Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana I

  • 1-1/2 cups spicy sausage links (12)
  • 3/4 cup diced onion
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chicken base
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 medium potatoes, cut in half lengthwise and then cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 2 cups kale leaves, cut in half, then sliced
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place sausage links on a sheet pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until done; cut in half lengthwise, then cut at an angle into 1/2-inch slices.

Place onions and bacon in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until onions are almost clear. Remove bacon and crumble. Add garlic to the onions and cook an additional minute. Add chicken base, water and potatoes; simmer 15 minutes. Add crumbled bacon, sausage, kale and cream. Simmer 4 minutes and serve.

Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana II

  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large russet baking potatoes, sliced in half and then in 1/4-inch slices
  • 2 cans chicken broth
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 can Oscar Mayer Real Bacon Bits (these are less fatty than real bacon)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups kale or Swiss chard, chopped
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

Cook sausage in a 300 degree oven. Bake approximately 1/2 hour; drain on paper towels and cut into slices.

Place onion, potatoes, chicken broth, water and garlic in pot; cook on medium heat until potatoes are done. Add sausage, bacon, salt and pepper; simmer for another 10 minutes. Turn to low heat; add kale and cream. Heat through and serve.

* * *

For: Marie Kabus of Seminole.

From: Shirley Tucker of Palm Harbor.

Recipe: Helen Corbitt's Poppy Seed Dressing.

Helen Corbitt's Poppy Seed Dressing

  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2/3 cup vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons onion juice
  • 2 cups vegetable oil (Shirley uses canola oil)
  • 3 tablespoons poppy seeds

Mix sugar, mustard, salt and vinegar. Add onion juice and stir thoroughly. Add oil slowly, beating constantly, until thick. (Shirley uses a blender at medium speed.) Add poppy seeds.

* * *

From: Gene Groner of St. Petersburg.

Recipe: Honey Poppy Seed Dressing.

Honey Poppy Seed Dressing

  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 2 slices red onion, finely diced

In a glass jar, combine all ingredients. Shake well. Yield: 3 cups dressing. Dressing may be kept in refrigerator up to a week.

* * *

From: Pat Doubleday of Clearwater.

Recipe: Peppy Poppy Seed Dressing from Cook Wise by Shirley Corriher.

Peppy Poppy Seed Dressing

  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds

Place the sugar, vinegar, salt, dry mustard, paprika and cayenne in a blender or food processor. With the machine running, very slowly drizzle in the oil. Stir in poppy seeds by hand.

* * *

For: Elaine Carr and Arlene Siems, both of St. Petersburg.

From: Jean Guimond of Clearwater and Augusta, Maine.

Recipe: Banana Bread.

Banana Bread

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 cup brown sugar (not packed)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (2 large)
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons wheat germ

In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

In another bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and bananas, mixing well. Add buttermilk alternately with dry ingredients, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in walnuts and wheat germ. Spoon into greased 9- by 5-inch loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until bread tests done. Jean has found that it takes about 15 minutes longer in her oven.

Recipe requests

Jean Guimond of Clearwater and Augusta, Maine, has had no success in finding a recipe for French silk chocolate pie that is cooked. The original recipe is uncooked, but since the recipe calls for eggs, that is no longer a good idea. Do you have a cooked version?

Jean is also looking for the pineapple-cream cheese pie recipe that was once a Pillsbury contest winner.

Cream cheese pecan pie is the only pecan pie the family of Rosa Johnson of St. Petersburg likes. Rosa writes that the recipe, clipped from this newspaper about 20 years ago, has been lost. The Johnson family would be grateful for a replacement.

Mary Fanning of Zephyrhills hopes that you will share recipes for two cakes, rum cake and golden apricot cake.

Elizabeth Burlander of New Port Richey would like to have the recipe for sweet and sour lentils. She saw the recipe but failed to clip it out, and she hopes you can supply it.

Peggy Thomas of St. Petersburg writes that several years ago, she enjoyed stuffed pepper soup at the Pie Factory on Walsingham Road. It was delicious, and Peggy would like to be able to prepare it at home.

- You Asked for It is a reader mail column. If you have a cooking question or the answer to someone else's question, write to: You Asked for It, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Be sure to include your full name, city and phone number with your letter. Letters without this information will be discarded. Requests cannot be answered by phone or mail.

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