Market Finds: Tomato Hoarder Edition

Market Finds: Tomato Hoarder Edition

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

Heirloom Tomato Soup

 

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.

Ingredients

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

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

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!!

My Best Cinco de Mayo Recipes 🌮

My Best Cinco de Mayo Recipes 🌮

Cinco de Mayo may come but once a year, but Taco Tuesday is forever! Discover new twists on old favorites from my recipe archive.

Steak Tacos/Carnitas

 

 

Mexican-American dishes are a welcome addition to your kitchen’s menu any day of the year.  Savor these Cinco de Mayo specials today and as new Taco Tuesday favorites!

Easy Mexican Street Corn, Skillet Style

No fresh corn? No problem. The recipe produces results that are super savory with the right amount of tang, even with frozen or canned kernels!

Steak Tacos With Tomatillo-Ancho Chili Sauce and Avocado Cream

Chili seasoned meat drizzled with spicy red and creamy green sauce, garnished with fresh herbs make this street food taco an elevated Cinco de Mayo treat

Steak Tacos/Carnitas

Pico De Gallo The Green Goddess Way

This green goddess chunky pico de gallo sauce is absolute perfection on a pork-filled burrito, or in a bowl of rice and beans – or simply weighing down a tortilla chip.

Grilled Guacamole

Serve on nachos, as a condiment on fish or chicken, or…how about frying a tortilla in oil for just a couple of secs. 

Guacamole Dip

Dipping My Toe in the New Normal

Dipping My Toe in the New Normal

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!

 

Tomato Soup in Bowl with Crackers

 

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!

God Bless!

Tomato Soup
With Jalapeno, and a Hint of Fennel

Serves:

Time:

4-6 

40-Minute Cuisine

Ingredients

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.

The Glass Half Full

The Glass Half Full

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!

 

When Hurricanes Strike, Neighbors Come a Callin’

When Hurricanes Strike, Neighbors Come a Callin’

It was 12 years ago that Hurricane Wilma hit us in South Florida. We lost power for several weeks, and it took about that long for the grocery store shelves to re-stock. What happened during the days after the storm was truly amazing. With the power out, an eerie silence took up residence. The weather finally broke and cool, fresh breezes and sunny days followed. People left their homes to look at the neighborhoods and assess the damage. We were in good shape, structurally; but it became obvious pretty quick that our power would take a while to be restored.

One by one you heard small, gas-fueled generators crank up. You saw a few lights in windows at night, but mostly there was quiet.

And then it happened. We began to leave our homes and wander the streets. Neighbors who only said hi in passing were now caring about whole conversations. Food sharing became standard. With no electricity, freezers and fridges held food that must be cooked. Propane and coal-fueled grills lit up, and meals were shared. It was truly amazing to see people cook so many different foods on a grill. We’re quite an industrious breed when we must be!

With Hurricane Irma looming in the near future, I wish all of you a safe harbor while she passes. And, when it’s time to clean up after she leaves, I hope you take a moment to look around and share a meal with your neighbors. It’s as easy as firing up the grill and knocking on someone’s door.

Godspeed!

Grilled Flank Steak Fajitas with Peppers and Onions

Serves 6

30 Minute Cuisine

When grilling is the way to go, grillers need to be armed and ready. This recipe works for anything you have defrosting, and out of your freezer. Substitute with pork tenderloin or chicken; likewise, grill any veggie you have on hand, like mushrooms, onions, carrots – anything works!

For Steak:

1 (1-pound) beef flank steak

2 cups tomato juice

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

Juice of 1 medium lime, about 1 tablespoon

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

6 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

½ teaspoon coarse ground pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

For Veggies:

3 large bell peppers (any color), seeded, veins removed, cut into strips, about 3 cups

1 large red onion, peeled and sliced, about 1 cup

2 tablespoons olive oil

For Fajitas:

6 (10-inch diameter) tortillas

Fresh chopped cilantro

Salsa

Sour cream

Place the flank steak into a sealable plastic bag.  Add the tomato juice, vinegar, lime juice, Worcestershire, and garlic.  Sprinkle with pepper.  Seal the bag and massage to combine the ingredients.  Marinate for 30 minutes on the countertop or longer in the fridge.

Place the veggies into a bowl.  Sprinkle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Toss to coat.

Stoke up the grill.  Remove the flank steak from the bag and season with salt.  Grill until browned on one side, about 5 to 7 minutes, depending on the thickness of your steak.  Turn and cook on the second side, about 4 to 6 minutes more.  Transfer the steak to a platter, cover with aluminum foil and let rest while you grill the veggies.

Place the vegetables in the grill basket. (If you don’t have one of these, you can lay the veggies on a sheet of aluminum foil and roll up the edges to create a baking sheet.) Grill soft and golden, about 10 minutes.

Place the vegetables onto one side of a platter.  Cut the steak across the grain into thin pieces.  Lay the slices next to the vegetables.  Garnish with cilantro.

Assemble the fajitas by laying a tortilla on a plate.  Spoon a column of veggies down the center.  Top with slices of steak.  Add a spoonful of fresh salsa and a dollop of sour cream.  Fold the bottom ¼ of the tortilla over the filling.  Fold one side over and then the second side over top.  Take a big bite and dig in! Remember to share these with your friends and neighbors!