Sunday, August 30, 2015

Pinterest Prove Out: Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

My nest is now empty...my youngest has moved into his dorm and now I have all the spare time in the world to try out recipes.  Just kidding, I don't have that much spare time, but I am looking forward to trying out some of the many recipes I have pinned in my "recipes I want to try" board on Pinterest.  Due to my overzealous farmer's marketing, I ended up with a ton of Roma tomatoes, and my garden's basil was threatening to bolt, so it was time for me to try one of my pinned recipes for a roasted tomato soup.   The original recipe can be found here, and when I first looked at it, I immediately questioned a few things.   First, there was very precise weights for the tomatoes.   ...2 1/4 lbs of Romas,  1 1/4 lb cherry tomatoes. Then the onions to be sliced "just under" 1/2 inch,,,,and then 2 cups (32 grams) of lightly packed basil leaves.   This seemed a little to precise for me.   Plus, there was no way that many tomatoes were going to fit on one baking sheet.




 So I decided to use my stoneware bar pan (13x9) for as many tomatoes as I could fit and my half sheet pan for as many onions as I could fit.  I tried roasting the tomatoes face up like the recipe suggested, but it really works better to do it face down to get the skins caramelized.   Also, DO NOT pull off the skins as suggested.  Roasting is the whole point of this recipe; pulling off the skins gets rid of all that flavor.  I cut my onions about 1/4 inch, and left them in slices so they wouldn't burn....


I roasted them for an hour and a half, not the 45 minutes suggested because they were just getting a little soft after that short of a time. I also had some oregano in the garden to use, so I added that.  The recipe author suggested using an "emulsion" blender (I think she meant "immersion") but I found it easier to put the solids in a food processor instead.   I hate vegetable broth - it has a nasty aftertaste, so I just used water to thin it and it was fine.  To finish it off, I added a bit of sugar and some red wine vinegar to brighten it.   My husband can't have dairy, so I just made garlic toasts instead.  Delicious!



Here's how I changed the recipe to make it even better:

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup
Ingredients
2 1/4 lbs Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise   About 15 medium Roma tomatoes cut in half
1 1/4 lbs Cherry tomatoes
4 1/2 Tbsp olive oil 1/4 c olive oil divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
8 cloves garlic,  minced
2 small yellow onions, sliced just under 1/2­inch thick  1/4 inch slice
2 cups (32g) lightly packed fresh basil leaves
1 cup basil leaves
1/2 cup oregano leaves
 1.5 c. water
2 T sugar
2 T red wine vinegar
Grilled cheese croutons (optional), see notes  


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with 3 Tbsp half
olive oil then season with salt and pepper (place Roma halves cut side upright down). Place onion
slices and garlic on a rimmed half sheet and toss brush with remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil on all
sides, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place baking sheet with tomatoes and half sheet with
onions in oven side by side and roast onions  1 1.2 hours. 30 ­ 35 minutes until edges are golden, and
tomatoes 40 ­ 45 minutes until golden. Peel away any burnt papery layers of onions if there are
any. Pull peels from tomatoes (I didn't do this with mine but later wished I would have so I'd
recommend it so the soup isn't loaded with peels. If you want some peel then I'd peel at least
half). Pour onions and tomatoes into a large pot. Add 4 cups vegetable broth and the basil.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.     In the large bowl of a food processor, pulse tomatoes, onions, herbs and garlic,  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes,
adding an additional 1 cup vegetable broth  water to thin as desired. Blend soup with an emulsion
blender or in small batches in a blender (only fill blender half full). Add sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste,   Float a small garlic toast on top if desired.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Summertime Corn Chowder

It's that time of year again....I have too many tomatoes, too much basil , green peppers, etc.   We seem to be eating BLTs all the time.   And the sweet corn!  I bought extra today because it was only $1.50 for a half dozen, with the idea that I'd make corn chowder for work lunch this week.   I googled around and all the recipes seemed too heavy with cream.   I wanted to use bacon (and a little bacon fat) instead.  I wanted something lighter, and to use up some of my garden extras.   Time to improvise....here's how I made my corn chowder.   I didn't to it this time, but could see even adding zucchini to this.  Perfect for summer!


2 strips bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup small diced green bell pepper
4-5 ears of sweet corn, kernels removed from the cobs (about 3 cups), cobs reserved (this can be cooked already)
4 cups milk, whole or low fat
1 cup diced potatoes (1/2 inch)
2 small zucchini, diced (optional)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 t. turmeric
salt and pepper to taste

Garnish
diced fresh tomatoes
basil leaves, cut into thin strip

Place chopped bacon into a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot. Heat on medium heat until the bacon slightly browns and renders its fat, 3-4 minutes. Add the chopped onions and bell pepper lower the heat to medium low and cook until vegetables soften. Break the corn cobs in half (after you've stripped off the corn) and add the cobs to the pot. Add the milk. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes. Make sure the heat is as low as can be and still maintain a gentle simmer.  After 20 minutes, add the potatoes, Increase the heat to return the soup to a simmer, then lower the heat to maintain the simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Discard the cobs add the corn kernels and zucchini and thyme and turmeric Again raise the heat to bring the soup to a simmer, then lower the heat and cook for another 5 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with tomatoes and basil.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Really Good Zucchini Bread

When I was a kid in the 1970s, zucchini bread was all the rage.  I can remember grating tons of the garden's haul and freezing it so we could make it year round, but over the years, zucchini bread fell out of fashion.   I think we all were duped into thinking it was healthy because it had a vegetable in it., but the fact is, it didn't really have a lot in it, and it was coupled with a hefty dose of vegetable oil.   It should have really been called "cake".   When I was watching America's Test Kitchen the other day, they optimized the recipe to pack it full of zucchini as well as lower the vegetable oil.  I tried the recipe out the other day, and it was a winner.    Here's how I made it....

kinda looks like meatloaf but it's zucchini bread!




Zucchini Bread  

1 1/2 pounds zucchini
8 3/4 ounces brown sugar  (about 1 1/2 c. packed)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2  eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan.  Shred squash using a box grater, or even quicker, a food processor.  Place zucchini in center of dish towel. Gather ends together and twist tightly to drain as much liquid as possible, discarding liquid.Whisk brown sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla together in medium bowl. Fold in zucchini. Whisk all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg together in large bowl. Fold in zucchini mixture until just incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
Bake until top bounces back when gently pressed and toothpick inserted in center comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 65 to 75 minutes. Let bread cool in pan on wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove bread from pan and let cool completely on wire rack before slicing.

This recipe is spiced with warm spices, but if you are not in the mood for those fall flavors, try this other summery zucchini bread recipe I made last year...raspberry zucchini bread.   Looking back on this recipe from last summer, it feels really odd that my high school parenting days will be over.  Right now, we'd be in the thick of marching band camp and then football two-a-days.   This summer is different, my eldest decided to stay at school this summer for work, and my youngest will be taking off for college in a few short weeks.  There's a corner in the spare room devoted to dorm room stuff already.  Pretty soon, the nest will be officially empty!