Done in under a half hour, this lusty (I almost said perky, but perky it isn’t) soup just about jumped out of the pot, put its arms around me, and begged me to eat it. Wonderful for the I-ate-too-many-chocolates post-holiday cooking time, you can skip the fresh basil, if you still haven’t gotten to the store, and add Herbes de Provence or a combination of dried oregano and basil. Easily vegan and gluten-free (with a few changes or lack of a garnish), this meal will heat everyone up despite the weather. It’s sunny, but snowy … Continue reading →
(Above: Soup is easily vegan without the feta garnish.)
This is the last week I’ll feature a recipe from my new book, Soups & Sides for Every Season (click HERE to order). Make the recipe, photograph it, email the pic to me: firstname.lastname@example.org. If yours is the first email with a recipe photo I receive, I’ll mail you a book! Don’t forget to include your snail mail address in the email as well as any adjustments you made to the recipe. Now get “cooking!” I can’t wait to hear from you.
My first for-real book signing is Saturday, July 19 (11am – 1 pm) at Aspen Kitchens and Design Studio here in Colorado Springs: 5134 North Nevada Ave. Colorado Springs, 80918 –University Village Complex. I’ll have a few books with me, but you still have time to buy one and bring it! There may even be some soup or something else to taste. Come see! Next up is Shouse Appliances at Academy and Austin Bluffs; date tba. There’ll be some cooking going on at Shouse, of course.
Since I’m writing a soup cookbook, I’m always interested in soups others make. Not only family, friends, and neighbors, but also famous cooks like Ina Garten. If I’m home and I’ve been working all day, I’m in front of the tv with my feet up at 3:00 Central Time when Ina makes one of her appearances on Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa. While doing a little background reading for this post, I discovered this on FOOD NETWORK’S “10 Things You Didn’t Know about the Barefoot Contessa”:
She’s never watched herself on TV. “I couldn’t possibly. If I watched a show, I don’t think I’d ever do it again,” she laughs. “Filming is still the most frightening thing I’ve done. It’s just sheer terror. I haven’t gotten used to it yet.”
Of course, it doesn’t matter to me whether or not she watches herself, but I get it. As a longtime singer and choir director, I cannot stand to hear a recording of me singing. In fact, I don’t like performing as a soloist; I’d rather direct. So Ina’s words resonate with me.
Another comment she made was about cooking from recipes; she always cooks from her own books. She doesn’t wing it at all.
“I trust them,” she says. And after all these years, she still prefers a recipe over winging it. “I’m a science person. I measure everything.” Read more here.
That, I don’t get. I absolutely cook by the end of my apron strings nearly always. I dream things up daily despite a huge shelf full of cookbooks. Dave, my husband, says, “That was good. Do you think we’ll ever have it again?!” For instance:
This week, our group of veteran food bloggers is cooking up all Ina “S’s” — Soups, Sides, or Salads. My choice was:
easy tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons
The simplest of soup ingredients (onions, garlic, chicken broth, tomatoes, orzo, cream) make up the bulk of this quick soup and, while the soup (all rights reserved) is part of Ina’s newest book, FOOLPROOF, you can also get the recipe on the Barefoot Contessa site.The most unusual aspect of this soup is its use of saffron, that lovely warm floral seasoning made from the stigma of croci, or crocuses if you will:
CROCUS: a small, spring-flowering plant of the iris family, which grows from a corm and bears bright yellow, purple, or white flowers. (Oxford English Dictionary.)
So: What did I think? It was tasty, tasty……….
Overall, a lovely, basic and inexpensive tomato soup made more filling with the addition of orzo, small rice-like pieces of pasta. The grilled cheese croutons were cute and yummy–a great idea and a fun addition. You just make a grilled cheese and cut it into 1-inch segments.
I’ll admit I had to change a few things in the soup AND the croutons for personal reasons…
CROUTONS: Ina’s white bread, 2 T butter, and 4 ounces of cheese were changed to whole wheat, 1 teaspoon butter, and one thin slice of cheese so that I could eat it without going off program.
The fragrantsaffron was lost on me as the tomatoes were almost overwhelming in their sweetness. (At least mine were. ) Making it another time, I would increase the amount of saffron. Ina’s “large pinch,” might become two.
I cut the salt in the interest of health, but also in the interest of taste– from one tablespoon to one and a half teaspoons. Salt, like sugar, cuts acidity; acidity, however wasn’t the problem.
I included the entire amount of black pepper, one teaspoon, but pretty much wished I’d put in a pinch of crushed red pepper despite the warm mouth buzz left when dinner was done. Of course, I’m addicted to crushed red pepper.
I skipped the heavy cream and instead topped my soup with a little spoonful of plain Greek yogurt as I’m watching my caloric intake. (I’m on Weight Watchers.) Just to see, however, I did try one single spoonful with the cream to see if it dulled the sweetness of the tomatoes. No. Not so much. It was creamy and luscious, of course! I think I’d do without if I had to choose.
One last thing: as the soup sat, the orzo grew AND GREW (as pasta will do in soup) and, by the time it cooled enough for me to refrigerate it, the pasta was dominant. Pretty much appeared to be pasta and sauce in the pot. There are two possibilities: one, use a small orzo (there are different sizes) or use less.
What’s cool about this is you have pretty much a little pot of sweet marinara with tiny pasta--and it’s good. And it’s not nearly as caloric as a big plate of spaghetti, yet you still get the whole deal taste-wise. This soup is also darned quick. You could be eating in forty minutes total, including grilling the sandwiches. Family-friendly, leftovers would make great lunches at work or school. A little hot sauce and your big-eater guy friend would be swooning. Is it foolproof? I’d say so. Yes, I’d agree; she’s definitely got that down. Just watch the salt.
Would you like it? Yes, I’m sure you would. Is it a recipe you can trust? It says you can on the front cover of the book. Definitely. Trust it. But make it your own.
What else might you do?
You might brown up a couple of links of top-flight Italian sausage (slice it) and either use it for a “crouton” instead of the grilled cheese or add it to the sandwich. If you’d like something green (imagine), chop up a half cup each of fresh basil and spinach and stir in for the last minute or two (having left out the saffron.) You would definitely have a good glass of zin or reserve Chianti along side. You’d probably skip dessert. I think you’d be full.
stop in and see what our fine writers are cooking up on the first Friday of each month:
Are you a food blogger? Want to join in one time a month? Email Alyce @ email@example.com or link in to join us once in a while (click on blue oval link button at bottom and follow prompts) only if you’re blogging Ina! We’d love to have you.
I follow a fine blog called Leave It Where Jesus Flang It, written by the Rev. Margaret Watson, pastor for nine congregations on the Cheyenne River Reservation. Sequester cuts have left her elderly, handicapped, and grandparents (who are raising children) in a very troubling situation, unable to pay bills or buy food. Children are at risk, as well. If you click on the blog link, you’ll see the letter she’s written her congressional representatives. If you’d like to help ease this situation, read the blog and write your own representatives or leave a comment asking how you might help directly. Donations, of course, are always accepted by the mission.
Here are some excerpts from Margaret’s letter:
I cannot afford to feed all the people who come to my door asking for help. I have emptied my own freezer, my own cupboard in order to help these desperate folks.
In the last six months, I have done 40 funerals –six infants, two teen suicides, and many, many folks under the age 40.
Don’t punish the children and the elderly and the poor and the disabled by cutting the programs that at least keep them alive at poverty levels.
I can only say I am shocked and depressed by my own government. Do better than this. The people you are supposed to serve deserve better.
I’ve been making lots of soup lately–for good reasons. There’s a soup book on the way plus I’m watching my calories pretty carefully, so am eating lots and lots of vegetables. The other day, I made a pretty special tomato soup, which I blogged on Dinner Place…. Next day, I had to have something different; yogurt and pistachios did the trick. I mixed in a little yogurt to one small portion of my soup, spooned it into the middle of the bowl, and topped it all with chopped pistachios. I had a partial “cream” of tomato soup and some perfect crunch for texture.
While kids often balk at green food (except for green eggs and ham or grapes, I guess), they usually love pistachios. I think it’s their fun-to-open-shells–no nutcracker needed–, which makes eating them a bit of a chase, a puzzle, even a trial sometimes. These little southwest nuts pack a wallop nutritionally (I put them in my homemade granola all the time). Like other nuts, they’re heart healthy, high in protein and fiber, but are also rich in potassium–a great treasure. Read more about the nutritional benefits of pistachios here. They make wonderful snacks as they are, but are also good additions to cookies, ice creams, puddings, cereals, fresh fruit, or root vegetable dishes.
light and lusty tomato soup serves 4
1 small yellow onion, quartered
2 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 carrot, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 fennel bulb, sliced (use a little more celery if you have no fennel)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Generous pinch each: crushed red pepper and Herbes de Provence (see above for substitutions)
4 whole garlic cloves
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup dry white wine*
2 cups vegetable broth
28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon honey
Place onion, celery, carrot, and fennel in food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process, pulsing, until vegetables are diced. (Or dice by hand.)
Heat a 6-quart heavy pot over medium low heat with the olive oil, pepper, and Herbes for a minute or until fragrant. Add the whole garlic cloves and cook for a minute or until golden; turn and let cook another few seconds before adding the vegetables from the food processor.
Stir in the fresh basil leaves, kosher salt, black pepper. Cook for five minutes, stirring, until vegetables are beginning to soften.
Pour in water, wine, broth, and tomatoes. Stir in honey. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes or so until all vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.
Taste and adjust seasonings. Puree using an immersion blender, in batches in the food processor or blender, or mash with a potato masher. Alternatively, eat as is.
Serve hot garnished with one of the following: chopped fresh basil, croutons, or chopped pistachios for vegan version. Grated Parmesan cheese or a spoon of plain Greek yogurt for Gluten-Free version. If you’re ok any way at all, choose what you’d like, though just the Parmesan and a little fresh basil are perfectly perfect.
*Replace the wine with water if need be.
The Parmesan version
Cook’s Note: To Make the “Cream” of Tomato Soup version:
Ladle one cup of soup into the bowl. In another small bowl, ladle in about a half cup of soup and stir in a tablespoon of plain Greek yogurtuntil well combined. Spoon the yogurt mixture into the middle of the soup bowl and top with chopped pistachios.
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The story goes that tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches…. Actually, I don’t know that story. If you do, tell me. I just can’t remember when I didn’t eat that comforting, homey classic Saturday noon meal. My kids grew up eating it, but mama’s got a brand new bag.
This time around, I made the tomato soup myself. No sugar, sweetheart. Just a drop of honey to counteract the acid in the tomatoes. And…no grilled cheese sandwich. Not for me. Dave had one. Instead, I fried my cheese and gently topped my soup with it.
It was creamy, crunchy and fulfilled all those grilled cheesey longings while I skipped the bread on a cold, cold night with the snow flying across the piano window:
Homemade Tomato Soup with Fried Cheese
In a food processor (or by hand, chopping) fitted with the steel blade, place:
1 small onion
2 stalks celery
1-2 peeled carrots
1/2 cup parsley
2 garlic cloves
1/4 of a lemon, including the peel
Process pulsing until the vegetables are evenly and quite finely minced.
In a 4-6 qt stock pan, heat over medium heat
1 T olive oil
When quite warm, spoon in the minced vegetables and let cook 5 minutes until softening. Add:
1 28 oz can chopped tomatoes (I like Cento tomatoes.)
1/2 cup white wine or water
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
1/4 tsp of chili-garlic sauce or a few drops of Tabasco
Bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer. Let cook slowly about 20 minutes, stirring regularly. If desired, puree using an immersion blender or by carefully returning (1/2 at a time) mixture to food processor. Taste and season again, if needed. Lower heat to very low and make the fried cheese:
You’ll need 1 large, thin slice of cheese for each serving. I used low-sodium Swiss Cheese, but Cheddar would also work well. Don’t use too soft of a cheese.
Directions: In a small skillet, heat 1T olive oil over medium heat. Place the cheese slice in the pan, and watching closely, let melt well. Meantime, ladle the soup into the bowl. Scrape out the melted cheese into a bowl full of soup and put the skillet back on the heat briefly. Using a good spatula, scrape the now crispy leavings of the cheese into the bowl. Eat while hot.
Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood
It’s the second Sunday of Advent. In my world, we’re moving daily through the journey toward the stable. Trying to figure out how to be ready for God to be born in our hearts. Taking a good look at what we’ve stored in there over the last year as it’s been that long since we took inventory and marked down the things that didn’t sell. Looking in dark corners. Blowing away the dust and sweeping away the cobwebs that can’t be there if we are to prepare him room. While it can seem odd, we are continually waiting for Jesus to come again.
So today, we sang and talked, and lit candles. Took communion together and sang, “Wait for the Lord, whose day is near.” Jody played the accordian and the sounds of the guitars, banjo, organ, piano, and steel guitar raised the roof to praise God and to make alive our wonders and wanders.
At home, we’ve got the tree, but it’s not up. Had a great day Saturday at Bachman’s looking at the decorations and buying a new tree, but it’ll sit out in the garage a while. The Christmas dishes are out. The table has the Christmas candles to grace it, and the many boxes of butter for the cookies are ready in the freezer. Down in the basement, there are stacks of flour, sugar, and chocolate. Almonds, raisins, and pecans. Invitations went out today to draw friends in for a bit of cheer on a Saturday afternoon not too far away. We’re finishing chores like the painted trim in the kitchen and getting curtains up… “What? Are you waiting for Christmas?” takes on new meaning.
The choir is working hard to be ready to sing our cantata next week. Joseph and Patricia Martin’s “Canticle of Joy” is our offering and our study…our way and our journey this year. All over the world, I’m comforted to think choirs are doing that same thing. Moving in on the music, getting it in their hearts, and making it one of their priorities. Makes you learn the story with your whole body when you sing it.
Here are a few at our rehearsal with Cabrini for Thanksgiving service.
At Bachman’s looking for a tree….
Did you ever see a blue or purple poinsettia?
Elephant topiary next to the poinsettia tree.
Beautiful, but out of our price range.
Finally getting our curtains up once we got home.
The Tuckster’s been eating snow.
And so things are getting ready for Christmas… slowly, but surely. And at your house? Here’s a bit of Advent reading I thought I’d share:
ADVENT Richard Rohr
When we demand satisfaction of one another, when we demand any completion to history on our terms, when we demand that our anxiety or any dissatisfaction be taken away, saying, as it were, “Why weren’t you this for me? Why didn’t life do that for me?”, we are refusing to say, “Come, Lord Jesus.” We are refusing to hold out for the full picture that is always given in time by God.
When we set out to seek our private happiness, we often create an idol that is sure to topple. Any attempts to protect any full and private happiness in the midst of so much public suffering have to be based on illusion about the nature of the world in which we live. We can only do that if we block ourselves from a certain degree of reality and refuse solidarity with “the other side” of everything, even the other side of ourselves.
Adapted from Preparing for Christmas with Richard Rohr, pp. 5, 7