There’s nothing that says love than a big bowl of tomato soup. Why not share this recipe, brimming with Farmer’s Market bounty, with your numero uno?!!Click to skip to the recipe
Facemask in hand, I was strolling the mark last week and found a few exceptional produce offerings.
It is TOMATO TIME. The varieties of heirloom tomatoes are on full display at almost every farmer’s stand. If there were a TV show that centered on tomato hoarders, I would be featured on episode number one! I just can’t help myself. I fill my straw basket with these red, ripe beauties and then take them home and display them on my counter.
Luckily, I am married to the numero uno tomato consumer and we eat them at every meal. But, when the numero uno consumer can’t keep up with the number one hoarder, we have a problem.
Enter my recipe for heirloom tomato soup. I think you are going to love this one.
One of the most interesting additions to my soup is elephant garlic. Remember those beautiful garlic scapes we found in the spring? Well, those scapes are on the top end of growing bulbs of garlic that are dug up right about now.
The cloves from this garlic are huge and have more of the texture of a turnip than a potato. The taste is more delicate and doesn’t overpower the flavor of this soup.
Last but not least, I found delicate zucchini squash blossoms still attached to their mini mates. These need to be dealt with quickly, as they don’t have an awfully long life span in the fridge.
I stuffed the flowers with a combination of ricotta, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and roasted them alongside the mini-squash for a delightful bite of cheesy vegginess.
It was an excellent side dish for the soup. A super YUM on the Yum-O-Meter.
I offer my soup recipe for you to try this week, whether your strolling the market or not.
There’s nothing that says love than a big bowl of tomato soup. Why not share one with your numero uno?!!
Heirloom Tomato Soup
Elephant garlic gives this soup a unique flavor as well as an interesting texture.
2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, about 6 large
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, peeled and diced
3 cloves elephant garlic, thinly sliced, about ¼ cup (substitute with 3 cloves regular garlic)
1 cup sherry
1 (28-ounce can) crushed tomatoes
1-quart vegetable stock
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ cup half and half
Yields: A crowd
Time: 60-minute cuisine
Peel the tomatoes by first slicing the skin crosswise at the stem and then placing them in boiling water for just a few seconds. Transfer the tomatoes to a colander and peel the skin. Cut the tomatoes into chunks.
Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes more. Pour in the sherry and continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and vegetable stock. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the soup for 20 minutes.
Use an immersion blender to emulsify the soup. You can also use a stand-blender or food processor to accomplish this step but cool the soup first. You don’t want hot soup in a blender!
Stir in the half and half. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning. You can add more salt and pepper if you like, or any other herb or spice you want to flavor your soup. It’s all good!!
One of the things you figure out when you like to cook is that you usually make more than you need…and when you learn how to make leftover food recipes, the more meals, the merrier! Get my recipes for a hearty soup and a clever take on chicken ravioli, two ways. Click to skip to the recipe
One of the things you figure out when you like to cook is that you usually cook more than you need. This is a by-product of not getting it totally right the first time or making sure you don’t run out of food!
On the one hand, say your making soup and upon first taste, you discover that you were a little heavy-handed with the salt. No problem, you just add more liquid or starch and the taste is repaired to delish status!
You now have not only yummy soup, but enough for an extra meal down the road. Win! Win!
On the second hand, you’ve invited pals to dinner who notoriously travel in packs and bring along more pals at the last minute. Therefore, you cook two chickens instead of one.
Both of these happened to me during the past week.
The results were some great leftovers that I morphed into two really yummy dishes. The first was what started out as my butternut squash soup and ended up as a cheesy, thick butternut and potato soup.
It’s hardly a recipe, but here’s the lowdown.
Cook onion and butternut squash chunks in oil in a deep pot over medium-high heat until the veggies are soft.
At this point, I remove the pot from the heat and a splash of sherry or dry white wine. I return the pot to the heat and add chicken or vegetable stock. Season with salt and pepper. Cool the soup to room temperature and use a blender to pulse the veggies to make a smooth soup.
But then, I returned the soup to the pot to reheat and found that it was a tad too thin and a bit too salty. So, I added a couple of spoonfuls of leftover mashed potatoes as I warmed the soup over medium-high heat. I tasted the soup and it wasn’t too bad.
So, I add more potatoes.
Then hubby came in and asked if I was making cheese soup. The butternut squash had given the soup a cheesy golden glow.
So, I nodded in the affirmative and added some grated cheddar cheese. I kept adding potatoes and cheese until the soup was rich, and velvety and hearty and really, really good.
I cooled it again, pulsed it again, reheated and poured it into bowls. Hot pepper sauce and parsley were the perfect garnish. Voila!
The second dish takes advantage of leftover chicken and wonton wrappers in place of pasta to make a yummy chicken ravioli that tastes as good as it looks.
Leftovers are not an afterthought, they’re the new way to cook smart and cook well!
Chicken Ravioli: Two Ways
Make these on a day when you have leftover chicken. You can store extra ravioli in a single layer in a resealable plastic bag in the freezer. To serve, bring them to room temperature before you drop them into boiling water.
2 cups cooked chicken
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about ½ cup
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
1 package Wonton wrappers, about 36
For brown butter sauce:
½ cup butter, 1 stick
4 to 6 sage leaves
For red sauce:
1 cup prepared marinara sauce
2 to 3 tablespoons half and half
Toasted pine nuts for garnish
Grated parmesan cheese for garnish
Servings: 4 or more
Time: 30-minute cuisine
Place the chicken into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to mince the chicken. Place the ricotta cheese, basil leaves and Parmesan cheese into the bowl and pulse to combine. Season with salt and pepper and pulse a final time.
Spread four wonton wrappers onto your works surface. Place a spoon full of the chicken filling into the center of each square. Place a small basil leaf on top of the filling. Wet the border of the wonton square with water. Place another wonton wrapper on top. Gently press with your fingers to seal the ravioli. Use the tines of a fork to firmly seal the edges. Repeat with the remaining wonton wrappers and filling.
For the brown butter sauce, warm the butter over low heat until it begins to froth and turn golden, about 5 minutes. Toss in the sage leaves and continue cooking for two minutes more.
For the red sauce, heat marinara sauce over low heat. Stir in the cream.
Fill a deep pot with water and bring to a boil. Season the water with a generous amount of salt. Lower the ravioli into the pot, one at a time. Do this in batches so that you don’t overcrowd the pot and damage the ravioli. The ravioli will cook in just minutes. Use a slotted spoon to lift the ravioli from the pot. Transfer to the brown butter or red sauce. You pick! Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and pine nuts.
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 I look around me and watch the posts on social media during this COVID-19 crisis, I see many of us are stressed by the reality of social distancing and self-quarantining of families. Restaurants are closed and grocery store shelves are picked clean. You can’t give your grandma a hug, and it’s hard to plan any social event in the future. The situation is entirely unnerving.
S-T-R-E-S-S! Perhaps we can put this into perspective!
Being a Floridian for most of my life, I’ve weathered plenty of tropical storms and several full-blown hurricanes. When we lost power, there was no electricity, no refrigeration, no lights, no television, no phone chargers and no air conditioning.
Before the storm hits, you fill up tubs and pots with water, because you will lose water after the storm. That means no flushing of toilets, no hot showers. Grocery store shelves are bare before the storm, and often shut down for days after the storm. Gas stations can’t pump gas because they have no electricity. Truck drivers can’t drive product to the stores, because they can’t get gas. The longest stretch I’ve experienced during a storm’s aftermath is two and a half weeks. But many have experienced longer.
So, I look at this crisis with my glass half full vision. Yes, I’m quarantined, staying home for (at least) two weeks. But I have running water, an electric stove and fridge, air conditioning, gas in my car and open grocery stores that are constantly re-stocking their shelves. Not too bad. But I do admit, I miss comfortably being in a room with my pals and sharing a meal.
More than this, the unfamiliarity with this crisis adds a different kind of stress. To reduce it, I thought I might give you a couple of basic ideas for food you can cook at home.
Yes, I totally encourage all of us supporting our local restaurants and ordering meals for pick up or delivery. But, let’s balance this with cooking at home. You’re probably stuck in the house with kids that are driving you crazy by now. Our kids are used to being entertained, and they are looking to you to entertain them.
Instead, let’s work together to teach them the skill of cooking for themselves.
After all, they will all go off on their own one day, and this just may be a skill worth learning.
Let’s start with a chicken! One of the first items you might want to tackle is cooking chicken soup. Not only is it easy, but you have the benefit of having soup on hand, in case you or your family members come down with the virus.
Soup is nourishing, tastes great when you’re sick, and helps to keep you hydrated.
Another plus when cooking a chicken is, you can use leftover meat for other dishes. This soup recipe is just an idea of what’s possible…but really, you can USE ANY COMBO of veggies and spices!
Rinse and pat dry your chicken… any chicken. You can use a whole chicken, which is best, or chicken pieces, which are also good. Try to use chicken pieces with skin on and bone in. These pieces will end up moist, and the broth will collect the nutrients from these parts.
Place the chicken in a deep pot. Cover with water. Boom! That’s it!!!!
You can add stuff to the pot. Good add-ins are onion, carrot, celery, garlic, ginger, turmeric and herbs like parsley. Basically, investigate your vegetable drawer and grab hold of the least fresh things you can find. You don’t have to cut them, peel them or dice them. Just throw them in the pot!
Now you’re ready to bring the water to a boil over medium high heat, reducing the heat to medium-low, or just hot enough to simmer what will become the broth.
You can cover the pot with a lid and simmer away. If you uncover the pot, and the liquid has evaporated significantly, add more water.
I usually simmer the soup for 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the chicken, or if I’m using chicken pieces. The broth is ready when the chicken is cooked through.
Use a meat thermometer, inserted into the thickest part of the chicken to determine when it is cooked through. You can simmer for longer than this. There are no set rules!
Here’s the FUN part. Use a BIG colander to strain the broth into a large bowl. Transfer the HOT chicken to your cutting board and let it cool. You can discard your add-ins at this point!
To turn your broth into soup, I dice up onion, celery and carrot. Using that same soup pot, cook the diced veggies in some olive oil until they are soft. At this point you can add rice if you like.
Pour the strained broth back into the pot. This is the time to season the broth with salt and pepper.
Remove the skin and bones from the chicken. You can dice up some of the chicken and put it back into the soup.
Store the remaining chicken in a resealable plastic bag. I normally dice up the dark meat from the thighs, legs and wings for the soup, and reserve the breast meat for other dishes.
Simmer the soup and continue to season it as you wish. When the rice is cooked (you could substitute with noodles for chicken noodle soup), the soup is ready to eat or store. Store the soup in jars. Cool the soup to room temperature before you put it in the fridge or freezer.
Now, for my Bubba Gump moment…
Take that extra chicken and turn it into chicken and brie paninis, curried chicken and grape salad, chicken and mushroom quesadilla, chicken casserole, chicken Caesar salad, Buffalo chicken dip, barbecue chicken flatbread, chicken and veggie pot pies, chicken tacos, chicken wraps, pulled chicken sandwiches, chicken and black bean enchiladas, chicken and broccoli pasta, chicken lettuce wraps…… get the picture?
Until we get past this Cornavirus nightmare…
My next few posts will be dedicated to simple cooking of simple ingredients. If you have anything you want me to simplify, just let me know.
I wish you good health, and a swift passing of this crisis. But, more than this, I wish you joy in the moment. Finding the joy amid stressful times is hard… but, I know we can do it!
October is mushroom picking season in my neck of the woods. Even if you don’t have kids, being back in school — with its many open houses and events — affects us all. That’s why I’m dusting off my best crock pot and grab and go snack recipes in the coming weeks, but tonight I’m serving up this golden favorite. Cream of mushroom soup doesn’t have to be blended, and comes together in less than 15 minutes on your stovetop.
Don’t have heavy cream in the fridge? You can substitute with butter and whole milk. But do run to the market if you don’t have thyme. In a pinch, powdered Parmesan cheese works in this dish – and if you’d like to add a splash of red wine, more power to you! I didn’t chop up the Bella or cremini mushrooms as they made for an ampler bite whole.
There’s not a lot to say about this one, other than it’s easy. Wishing all of you, whether there are backpacks in your lives or not, a brilliant school year!
Cream of Bella n’ Cremini
Serves up to 10
15 minute cuisine
1 pint Bella mushrooms, washed
1 pint cremini mushrooms, washed
Butter for sautéing
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 cups vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a stock pot over medium high heat, cook the mushrooms in butter for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the cream, thyme, garlic, cheese and vegetable stock. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
When the weather cooperates with the farmers, the bounty is just beautiful! This summer the sun shone through even when it rained! Our spring was cool and rainy, and the summer has proven to be warm, yet not hot. All in all, the mountains and foothills have flourished with lush greenery, abundant flowers and gorgeous, just gorgeous produce. It’s really, really hard to pass up the varieties of tomatoes, squash, lettuces and peppers.
I came home with a basket full…… (ok, two baskets and a bag) of tomatoes, peppers, chard, more peppers (shishito), basil and at least three varieties of baby squash. And the sunflowers… well I filled every vase in my house with these babies, the flowers of which were bigger than my hand!
Look at this haul:
I decided to make soup. The day was one of the few drizzle days signaling what I hope will be a long and languid Indian summer. I pulled out THE SILVER PALATE, one of my favorite cookbooks. There’s a recipe in there for a big batch of minestrone soup.
I used that recipe as I guideline, whilst merging my own farmer’s market ingredients, to create a soup that is just full of veggies, accented with spicy sausage and filling pasta. This recipe makes enough soup for you to share with friends or save for a busy weekday meal.
Maybe you can’t find a market near you, but don’t use that as an excuse not to make this soup. Grocery store produce will do just fine. And you needn’t worry about following an exact recipe… I sure don’t! Enjoy your soup!
Farmer’s Market Minestrone
serves a crowd
45 minute cuisine plus simmering
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 to 5 links Italian sausage, sliced into ½-inch circles
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2 to 3 large carrots, peeled and diced, about 2 cups
1 medium zucchini, diced, about 1 cup
2 medium yellow squash, diced, about 1 cup
2 poblano peppers, seeded and deveined, diced, about 1 cup
6 large garlic cloves, peeled and diced
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
4 cups beef stock
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons coarse black pepper
Outer rind of 2-inch piece of Parmesan cheese
1 bunch of kale, stems chopped, leaves rolled and chopped
Parmesan cheese grated
Chopped fresh basil leaves
12 ounces small elbow macaroni
Heat olive oil in a deep soup pot over medium heat. Add the sausage and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove the sausage from the pan. Add the onion, carrots, zucchini and squash to the pot. Cook until the veggies are soft and beginning to brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the peppers and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes more.
Pour in the tomatoes and beef stock. Season with oregano, salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a simmer. Add the sausage back to the pot. Tuck the cheese rind into the soup. Stir the kale into the soup. Add water to the pot to make sure all the ingredients are covered in liquid.
Continue to simmer the soup until the kale wilts and the cheese melts, at least 45 minutes and up to several hours on the stove over low heat. You can add additional water as needed. Continue to taste the soup and season with salt and pepper as needed. Add the macaroni and continue to simmer while the pasta cooks in the soup. When the pasta is plump and soft, the soup is ready!
Serve the soup with a garnish of grated Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of fresh basil on top.