Comfort food is just what we need, whether we are in self-isolation, quarantine, or shelter-in-place. My Tomato Soup recipe hits the spot and offers a savory solution to navigating “the new normal”. Click to skip to the recipe!
We’re about to start the process of opening our county after eight weeks of social distancing. In a way, we’ve grown accustomed to staying at home.
Shelter-in-place has been weird. But what is even weirder is how quickly we’ve become used to it.
Waking up alone or with your kids or with your significant other and your kids and your significant other and maybe your mother…. and having nowhere to go. No plans on the horizon. No reason to get spiffed-up. No goals, no pat on the back for a job well done. It’s been lonely, challenging, and life-changing.
And now, just like that we’re supposed to go back to a new norm.
When I canvas my friends, I hear apprehension. While we’re home and quarantined, we’re safe from the silent enemy. But now, venturing out, facemasks in place, we fight a new challenge: how to exist in a society where the virus hides around every corner. It is a crazy, insecure feeling; one that we must overcome in order to go on.
Personally, I am going to rely on my comforts as I dip my toe in the new norm. My hand sanitizer is stashed in my glove box. I’ve ordered designer face masks (of course I did….). I wash my hands constantly and stay six feet away from people that I encounter. I even follow the arrows in the grocery store!
But when it comes time to enter the phase that allows us to gather in small groups, my plan is to gather. I plan to gather just a few friends for a glass of wine to start and then maybe a shared snack or lunch and then maybe a social-distance approved supper outdoors with a couple of pals.
Yes, there is some apprehension, but it is time!
Perhaps it’s time to make your plan. There’s a lot to think about, whether you’re going back to work or considering shopping at the corner boutique.
Is it time to get your nails done, or does anxiety put the plan off for another week? Is it time to invite your baby best bud for a playdate? Is it time to let him go to his friend’s house? No matter how or when you plan to embrace the new norm, it’s time to make a plan. What I always do when I face the road ahead is to take some time to think and strategize.
And while I fashion a plan, I like to surround myself with comfort food.
It kinda makes things less scary. The whole activity of cooking that food relaxes me. So, while you’re mulling over your plan for your new norm, why not take a tip from my playbook and whip up a pot of comforting soup. Tomato Basil Bisque is my go-to soup because it pushes all the comfort buttons. It is creamy, flavorful, tummy-filling and the perfect bowl to sneak in a fistful of crumbled crackers. Just the dish needed before you walk out the door for the first time.
Swallow your anxiety, take your time and step forward….Safely!
Tomato Soup With Jalapeno, and a Hint of Fennel
Adding just a bit of jalapeno adds a little heat to tomato soup. But the addition of fennel takes this soup to a spiced-up, licoricey lip-smackin’ treat!
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced into small cubes
1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ cup dry sherry
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
4 ounces tomato paste, about ½ cup
1 quart homemade chicken stock, or prepared low sodium broth
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
½ large fennel bulb, optional
½ cup half and half
¼ cup sour cream
Pour olive oil into the bottom of your soup pot over medium-high heat. Place the onions and pepper into the pot and cook until soft and fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
Pour in the sherry and simmer until most of the liquid disappears, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Pour in the tomatoes, tomato paste, and chicken broth. Season with salt, pepper, and sugar. Place the fennel bulb into the soup. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot with a lid and simmer the soup for 20 minutes allowing the flavors to blend.
Remove the pot from the heat. Remove and discard the fennel bulb. Stir in the half and half and sour cream.
Serve the soup with crushed crackers, another dollop of sour cream, and the tops from the fennel.
As spring slowly begins to surround our stay-at home lives, we find ourselves searching for something different to do. A little change of pace. A supper to look forward to.
I have a plan based on my new favorite corner pub, the end of my driveway! Driveway drinks is my new normal during cocktail hour… but that’s another (socially distancing story).
For now, I’m thinking about setting up the ultimate picnic, and have the perfect recipes in mind.
What makes this supper special is that you can prepare it in advance (like even the day before). It tastes better served at room temperature than it does right out of the fridge. And, you can leisurely enjoy the meal. There’s no rush. If you are a grazer like me, eating this supper will take up some valuable time during these very long days.
For my supper, I’ll include three dishes
The first is a caprese salad. This dish is simply arranged by layering slices of tomato, mozzarella cheese and basil. Drizzle the dish with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. But, here’s the secret. Make this salad several hours before serving and DO NOT REFRIGERATE it. The salt and olive oil will bring out the flavor of the tomatoes.
The second dish is a riff on Niçoise salad, but in place of tuna, I substitute salmon that has been simply roasted with a rub of brown sugar, chili powder, lemon juice, salt and pepper. I include olives, hard boiled eggs, simply sautéed green beans, roasted baby potatoes and a white balsamic vinaigrette.
The third dish is one of my very favorites! Based on the Italian dish, Vitello Tonnato, cold poached veal with a tuna and caper sauce, I substitute chicken for the veal. The chicken is poached in wine and broth.
The liquid is flavored with onion, lemon and celery, but you can add whatever you like. Parsley, fennel and radishes are excellent additions. The trick is that the chicken is moist and retains that moisture by covering it with the very flavorful sauce. Again, although you refrigerate the dish to marry the flavors, the chicken is best eaten at room temperature.
So, set up your picnic table, lay out your platters, pour a glass of something FUN and leisurely enjoy the first picnic supper of the season.
Let’s look forward to many more to come….. together!
In a Rich Tuna Sauce
serves 6 to 8
2 large (or 4 medium) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 small white onion, peeled and cut into quarters
1 small lemon, sliced
2 to 3 stalks celery
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
For tuna sauce:
1 (7-ounce) can tuna packed in oil
4 to 5 anchovies
2 tablespoons capers, drained
Zest of 1 lemon, about 1 tablespoon
Juice of 1 lemon, about 2 tablespoons
1 cup mayonnaise
Place the chicken breasts into a pot. Pour in the wine and chicken broth. Add the onion, sliced lemon and celery. Add the salt and pepper. Bring the liquid to a simmer (some steady bubbles but not a mad bubbling volcano). Cook the chicken in the poaching liquid until it is just cooked through, about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the breast. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. About 165° is perfect. Remove the pot from the heat and keep the chicken in the poaching liquid,
Place the tuna, anchovies, capers, lemon zest and lemon juice into the bowl of a processor. Pulse to combine. Transfer the tuna mixture to a bowl. Fold in the mayonnaise. Remove one breast from the poaching liquid and place onto your cutting board. Cut the breast (across the grain) into ½-inch medallions. Fan these out onto your serving platter. Continue with the remaining chicken. Smooth the tuna sauce over the chicken. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour (or up to several hours) so that the sauce seeps into the chicken.
To serve, remove the platter from the fridge and bring to room temperature. Garnish with slices of lemon, capers and fresh parsley.
How’s that for a preview of what I’m reading this month? Ruth Ware has been touted as the Agatha Christie of our times, and with titles like The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Lying Game behind her, you will most definitely agree.
This is my next pick for our Super Supper Book Club. Gather your readers, give them the title, and dole out the recipes for what will be a roller coaster discussion and meal.
POT BOILER PLOT: When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss – a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten by the luxurious “smart” home fitted with all modern conveniences, and, even more, by the picture-perfect family that lives there. What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare.
I already cooked up some questions for your Super Supper Book Club gathering…
• If you read an ad for a job that offers an extraordinary salary, would you be wary or curious?
• When you first meet Jack, are you smitten, or do you think he is too good to be true?
• At what point is a smart house too smart for our own good?
My ghostly inspiration for this Super Supper Book Club menu is Heatherbrae House itself. Almost a character in the book, the house holds the key to comfort and the uncomfortable. A haunted house turned into a smart house; it sits in a remote area in the Scottish Highlands where the food traditions are steeped in history. This spirited menu grabs a taste from the past and updates conventional Scottish dishes just in time for our book discussion. Choose as many or as few recipes as your group likes. As you’re dining and discussing, don’t forget to look over your shoulder for any shadows lurking in the corner of the room. You never know who (or what’s) listening…..
This Month’s Super Supper Book Club Menu for Turn of the Key Features:
Bangers ‘n Mash Hand Pies with Mustard Dipping Sauce Canvas & Cuisine page 186 Sausage-Stuffed Party Bread At Home Entertaining page 372 Dill Roasted Salmon with Horseradish Caper Sauce At Home Entertaining page 379 Fish and Chips with Roasted Tomato Ketchup At Home Entertaining page 210 Wild Rice, Lentils and Sautéed Mushrooms At Home Entertaining 381 Raspberry Shortbread Tart Sunday Best Dishes page 315
Raspberry Shortbread Tart 60 minute cuisine MAKES 12 SERVINGS
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
Juice of 1 medium orange, about 3 tablespoons (reserve zest for tart)
2 pints fresh raspberries, about 4 cups
¼ cup apricot jam
Combine the sugar and orange juice in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Stir in the raspberries. Reduce the heat to low. Cook until the raspberries have broken down into the sauce, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the jam. Simmer until the jam melts into the sauce, about 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
6 ounces sliced almonds, about 1 ½ cup
¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus 2 ¾ cups
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon table salt
1½ cup unsalted butter (3 sticks), chilled, cut into small pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 medium orange, about 2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large egg yolks
Preheat the oven to 325°. Spread the almonds onto a baking sheet. Bake until they just begin to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Place ¼ cup of the flour into the bowl of a food processor. Add the toasted almonds. Pulse to form fine crumbs. Pour into a large bowl. Whisk in the remaining flour, cornmeal, and salt.
Place the butter into the bowl of the processor. Add the sugar, orange zest and vanilla. Pulse until creamy. Add the egg yolks and pulse. Add the dry ingredients and pulse until the dough just comes together. Pour the dough out onto your work surface. Divide the dough in half. Coat the bottom of a 12-inch fluted tart pan with vegetable oil spray. Press one half of the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Wrap the second half of the dough in plastic. Refrigerate both for 30 minutes.
Prick the bottom of the tart with the tines of a fork. Place onto a baking sheet and bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven. Spread the filling over the top. Crumble the remaining dough over the top of the filling. Bake until the top of the tart is golden, about 30 to 40 minutes more. Cool completely. Sprinkle the top with confectioners’ sugar. Remove the rim from the tart pan and transfer to a platter.
Chicken! Yes, my sweetheart tradition is all about a roasted chicken. Not an every Friday night Ina for Jeffrey chicken, but a once a year, Valentines Day roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings: roasted carrots, potatoes and onions and a lovely gravy/sauce to drizzle over everything.Tulips in a pitcher for the centerpiece, and a heart-shaped chocolate cake for dessert. Perfection!
In Sunday Best Dishes, I have a recipe for a chocolate walnut torte that is fudgy and nutty – just perfect for a post-Sunday dinner or Valentine’s Day fare.
You can serve it warm or at room temperature, which allows, if you prefer, to prepare it in the morning, knowing that dessert is all taken care of.
Message me if you want this recipe sent via email, ‘cause today’s post is all about melt in your mouth herb roasted chicken!
I first made this dish for hubby on a particularly cool Valentines Day many moons ago. Something about being three months past Thanksgiving was just about enough time for the fowl craving to emerge. In the very many moons since then, I’ve manipulated that chicken in sooo many ways. I roasted it upside down, leisurely cooked it in slow cooker, rotated it on a spit, split it in half and cooked it under a brick, stuffed it and then unstuffed it … I did it all!
This Valentine’s day evening, I can expect hubby to come home for dinner. He always brings me a most sappy, most meaningful card, and usually a bouquet of roses. I will push my (not quite as sappy) card across the table to him and smile. He will be happy and that makes me happy!
In the end, it’s that roasted chicken, served at home, for hubby that is my sweetest Valentine tradition. What’s yours?
Roasted Chicken with Herb Butter
60 minute cuisine
½ cup butter, room temperature (1 stick)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 (2 ½ to 3 pound) chicken
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 whole orange, cut into sections
½ cup sherry
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Mix the softened butter with the herbs.
Use your hands to cover the chicken with the herb butter. (Use your fingers to gently loosen the skin and place some of the butter between the skin and the meat.) Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
Place the orange sections into the cavities of the chicken.
Place the chicken on an upright roaster (or on a rack) in a baking pan. Pour the sherry over the chicken.
Place the chicken into the oven. After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees.
Bake until the skin is crisp, and the juices run clear, about 20 minutes per pound.
Extravagant cheese boards are all the rage right now. I love the pics from The Miami Larder Cheese Shop posted all over my Facebook feed. It’s inspiring. Rather than stack cheese and crackers alongside slices of apple and pear (like we’ve done forevah…) these pics show boards with every inch covered with some edible yummy.
I also use my wooden cutting boards to create board sauces for grilled goodies. My board is sprinkled with herbs, spices, garlic, and olive oil. The grilled meat or poultry is taken off the grill and immediately placed onto the board, rolled around in all those yummy herbs, and tented to rest and absorb the flavors. The board functions as the main serving dish.
I use my boards to entertain. Recently, I created a bruschetta board with three different toppings, roasted garlic bulbs, whole olives, chunks of cheese, roasted shrimp and so much more!
I admit my brain automatically goes to utilizing my boards for appys, allowing guests to dig in while we sip wine in advance of a seated supper. My bruschetta board is an extension of a cheese board, but still limited to the first course.
But things have changed! My super talented and creative daughter-in-law, Kimber has taken board entertaining to the next level. She uses her boards not only to creatively display food, but also to serve her casually elegant meals family-style.
It all started with the board. For Christmas a couple of years ago, Kimber added a wooden board to her wish list. Ever the over-achiever, I took the opportunity to purchase the largest board, I could find.
It’s over three feet long! Here’s my gift in use, and I see that Kimber’s hubby, my son Trey, couldn’t look happier!
I think I may have overwhelmed her, because it hid in the garage for some time. But things have changed. Her creative dinner parties now feature the board as the centerpiece for everything from a steakhouse supper to a baked fish and roasted veggie extravaganza.
There is a real advantage to entertaining in this manner.
First, it’s attractive. The food is displayed directly on the board, or in small dishes that fit onto the board and then are surrounded by placed items.
Second, it supports your picky eater pals. Often, people talk to me about their resistance to entertaining, because of our peculiarities. Are we allergic to seafood, in carb denial, gluten free, sugar resistant? It goes on and on. By putting all the food onto one board in the center of the table, your guests can pick and choose, as much or as little as they want from your offerings.
Third, serving your meal on a board in the center of the table is a conversation-starter. What’s on the board, how was it prepared, where did ya get that recipe. Did you pick this up at Trader Joes? Entertaining in this way is less formal, but even more attractive than a traditional, sit down, plated dinner.
And, finally using a board to serve your meal is easy! Instead of serving several courses and carrying dishes back and forth, all you carry is the board! Plates are pre-set and guests serve themselves. The dinner is what it is meant to be, relaxed and unhurried.
A pic from 2019 and Yet…So Not Bored with My Board
There are lots of ways to use boards to entertain for large groups and small. For my large parties I use several boards. You can be as creative as you want, because there are no restrictions. And you know what? I find that I’m not bored when I entertain with my board. (How da like that one?)