Scrumdiddlyumptious Heirloom Tomato Soup with Farmer Cheese Dollop

July 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Being a native Tucsonan, I’m not the kind to get sappy or nostalgic over summertimes.  I’ve bolted out of the desert each June and July since high school, fleeing to higher elevations, running water or — in the case of Guatemala — cities with giant floods and goosebump-nights.  About a month ago, shortly before I left for Santa Fe, I mopped my brow as I tried to yank out the pernicious mint crop that reappeared between my tomato plants.  It was nearly 8am and nearing double-digit temperatures; after some ferocious tugging (that proved futile), I stomped up the garden steps and told my sun-bathing dog that I’d like to fast-forward through the rest of summer thank-you-very-much.

As with all blanket statements, that one was spoken a bit hastily.  As tempting as Fall sounds at the heat of the day (or heat of dawn), it occurs to me that skipping summertime would yield a lifetime of mealy roma tomatoes from Safeway.  In the southwest, we eat our first tomatoes in May; along the east coast, we eat them in August.  Regardless of where you slice your tomatoes, you won’t be making salsa unless it’s toasty outside or you have a greenhouse at your disposal.

This soup is my summertime staple.  There are few ingredients, so make sure they’re high quality.  Heirloom tomatoes are key.  Here’s a tip: At $5.50 a pound, heirloom tomatoes can be pricy to chuck into a soup.  My remedy is to stop by the farmers’ market and ask for “sauce tomatoes.”  Sauce tomatoes are the squishy guys — the ones that are marked down to a buck-or-so a pound that farmers can’t sell alongside other pristine specimines.  These tomatoes may have a bug hole, a sunken top, a deformed edge or they might be a mutant.  Stock up on a few of these blemished fruits for your soups.  The flavor is outstanding.

P.S.  I like this brand of farmer cheese that you can find in specialty food stores.  (For those on the SCD diet, this cheese is a-okay.)

Ingredients for the Soup:
3 large heirloom tomatoes, chopped (approximately 2 cups)
1 medium, yellow onion, chopped
10 garlic scapes (or 4 cloves), minced
½ tablespoon butter
½ tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons pesto
sea salt & pepper, to taste
few basil leaves, for garnish

Ingredients for the Farmer Cheese Topping:
8 oz. Farmer Cheese (dry curd cottage cheese)
2 tablespoons pesto
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
2 small cloves garlic, minced
sea salt & pepper, to taste

Method:

1. Heat butter and olive oil in a large pot on medium-high heat.  When hot, add onions and garlic scapes and sauté approximately 10 minutes until onions are wilted, but not caramelized, and scapes are al dente, but not completely tender.  If using garlic cloves, sauté onion only and add garlic just before adding the heirloom tomatoes.

2. Chop tomatoes in large, ½” hunks.  Add to onions and scapes and reduce heat to a simmer (medium-low).  When the tomatoes have loosened and lost some of their liquid and shape, add the pesto.  Continue simmering for 10-15 minutes until scapes are tender, the tomatoes have completely lost their shape and the soup is liquidy.

3. While the soup simmers, prepare cheese topping.  Combine the farmer cheese with pesto, minced garlic, thyme and lemon juice.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  (I often add an additional spritz of lemon or a pinch of sea salt at this stage.)  Set aside.

4. When soup has finished cooking, remove from heat.  Serve into individual bowls with a dollop of herbed cheese on top.  Enjoy leftovers up to three days; this soup also freezes and thaws well.

Diet Notes: SCD-safe, gluten-free

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Curried Lentil Soup with Pureed, Lemony Chickpeas

January 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’ve lived in Tucson, Arizona my whole life.

While these past two and a half weeks have been very hard for me, I have also been moved and humbled.  I’ve been hugged and held by dozens of strangers; I’ve been helped by people I’ve never met — both children and adults alike — when I needed an extra hand; I’ve been and remain comforted, watching thousands of my neighbors come together in sadness and a renewal of love for life and for one another.

*

I haven’t cooked a thing (save toast, if you count that) in about two weeks.  But last night I was chilly and the house smelled stale.  My go-to supper of late has been a big salad (harvested from my garden) or yogurt and granola.  I was tempted by the latter, but as I picked through my recipe box of newspaper clippings and magazine tear-outs, I came across a recipe I’ve been tweaking — a curried, chunky lentil soup.  It’s a simple, one-pot meal and only dirties a knife, cutting board and Cuisinart.  I originally found it via Molly Wizenberg and fiddled with the proportions, swapping spices and a few ingredients to suit my palate.  But I didn’t tweak Molly’s lemony-chickpea blend.  In the final stages of this recipe, whiz the chickpeas with a little lemon juice and pour it into the soup a few minutes before serving.  The result is a thickened broth, almost creamy with good texture and flavor.

Last night the house filled with warmth and I cozied up to a mug of the best soup I’ve made in months.  I felt warm and nourished.  Here’s what I did:

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped (approx. 1/2 large onion)
2 carrots, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 cup green lentils, washed and picked-over for stones
4+ cups water
sea salt, pepper, to taste

1 cup garbanzo beans, cooked
2 tablespoons lemon juice

chopped scallions for garnish, optional

Method:

1.  Chop onion, carrot and garlic.  Heat a generous splash of olive oil on the stove; when hot, add onion and a pinch of sea salt to help it wilt.  Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add carrots and cook an additional few minutes.  Then add garlic and spices and saute until fragrant (1 minute tops).

2.  Rinse the lentils and drain.  Pick over and remove any debris or stones.  Add to the pot with four cups of water.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.

3.  Meanwhile, take 1 cup chickpeas and two tablespoons of lemon juice and puree until slightly chunky in a blender.  Set aside.

4.  Keep an eye on the pot and if you think it needs a bit more water, add a half-cup at a time. I added a half cup in the final ten minutes of cooking.   When lentils are soft (about a half hour to forty minutes of cooking) add chickpea blend. Cook for one to two minutes and test for salt and pepper.  Season to taste.  Serve hot with chopped scallions for garnish.

Diet Notes: vegan, gluten-free, nut-free

Lip-Smacking Chili: My Favorite, with Pumpkin!

November 8, 2010 § 2 Comments


When I hear the phrase, “I’ve got a great chili recipe!” I tend to get about as excited as when someone says they have “the best banana bread recipe ever.”  I never say no to a recipe-swap, but with chili, banana bread and probably chocolate chip cookies, there are millions of recipes floating out there in the internet ether and really, it’s hard to go wrong.

But guys, I can’t resist — I’ve got to share this recipe!  I make a lot of chili and I’m a chili fuss pot.  I don’t like chili that’s so spicy I can’t taste any flavor.  I also don’t like chili that’s chalk-full of everything.  (One time I had a batch with sauteed celery (gasp!).  Talk about everything-but-the-kitchen-sink!)  Chili is my favorite tote-to-work lunch, especially if I haven’t eaten all the cornbread the night before.  This recipe is my crem della crem, inspired by (never home)maker.  I’ve fed batches to my mom, dad, aunt, grandma and I’ve smelled up the entire office with whiffs of ancho chili powder and garlic.  To put it simply: This recipe gets positively gobbled!

I recommend whipping up this recipe (and most of my favorite soups) a day in advance; the flavors will have melded and it tastes better.  In a pinch, make this chili an hour-and-a-half before serving, so you can give the pot an hour’s rest on the back-burner (off the heat) to sit.  Judging by the ingredient list, you might wonder if there’s enough cooking liquid.  Rest assured, between the glugs of beer (pumpkin-flavored is wonderful) and reserved tomato juice from the plum tomatoes, the liquid-to-bean ratio is spot-on.

Ingredients:
1 large onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ancho powder
1 teaspoon Santa Cruz mild chili powder
1 teaspoon Syrian paprika, smokey
sea salt, pepper

2 cups corn
2 cups black beans, pre-cooked
4 cups tomatoes, chopped (or 1 28-oz can plum tomatoes, liquid reserved)
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup beer, pumpkin flavored preferred

Method:

1. In the bottom of a large pot, saute chopped onion in a tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high heat with a pinch of sea salt.  When onion turns translucent (approximately 6 minutes), add garlic and stir until fragrant (another minute).  Add spices and cook until aromatic (another minute).

2.  Add remaining ingredients: corn, beans, tomatoes, pumpkin and beer and simmer for 20 minutes with the lid off on medium-low heat.  After 20 minutes, ideally move pot off the burner and cool completely before refrigerating.  Reheat the following day (this allows the flavors to fully meld).  In a pinch, let the pot on the back burner for an hour and then reheat before serving.  Delicious paired with buttermilk-quinoa cornbread.

Diet Notes: vegan

Kitchen Sink Stew

October 11, 2010 § 1 Comment

With subtle hints of autumn floating through my open windows, with cool winds swirling through the rest of the Lower-48, and frosty gales sweeping through the northern-most countrysides (it’s 24 degrees at my aunt’s house in Alaska!), it seems appropriate to post a hearty, comforting, chalk-full-of-good-stuff fennel-tomato-squash-peas-beans-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-stew.  This recipe is tweaked from Saveur.  While the majority of the recipe follows standard soup guidelines — saute vegetables in shifts, add water and seasonings, boil, simmer, re-season — the beginning of this recipe is slightly different:

Instead of sauteing an onion with soup aromatics, we pulverize the onion along with garlic, a little olive oil and a handful of herbs and then saute in an un-seasoned pot (no olive oil glug at the bottom) until all the water evaporates — all this before adding the next shift of vegetables.  This technique creates a thicker broth and richer flavor.  This soup is marvelously flexible.  If you don’t have butternut squash, cubed sweet potatoes make an excellent replacement.  Add a few cups of cheesy tortellini to the mixture; try cannelini beans instead of garbanzos for a creamier texture.

Start-to-finish, this soup can be ready in a half hour.  However, I recommend prepping this soup at least 12 hours before serving (overnight is ideal).  Let the pot hang-out, untouched, on the back-burner after it’s cooked, allowing the flavors to meld.  When it comes time to eat, reheat, doll out ladles of stew into separate bowls and sprinkle a generous amount of fresh Parmesan cheese on top.  Very good paired with crusty sourdough bread, dredged in butter and roasted garlic.

One final note: I prefer the taste of roasted butternut squash over boiled.  Prior to making soups that feature butternut or acorn squash, I often roast the squash chunks in olive oil and sage leaves and then add the cooked squash to the stew toward the end of the cooking process.  However, if you’d prefer to forgo that step — and it will still taste marvelous if you do — skip the roasting and add the raw squash when adding carrots and fennel.

Ingredients:
2 cups cubed butternut squash
olive oil, sea salt, pepper
8-12 sage leaves

1 yellow onion, large
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup basil, loosely packed
1 tablespoon + olive oil

5-6 medium carrots, chopped
2 heads fennel, sliced
1 + 1/2 cups whole plum tomatoes + juice, roughly chopped
2 cups garbanzo beans, cooked*
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen and thawed
few handfuls spinach or arugula, optional
Parmesan cheese rind
1 -2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
sea salt, pepper

Parmesan cheese, grated, for topping

*For those following a strict SCD diet: Swap garbanzo beans with dry white beans, lentils or black beans after 1+ month symptom-free.  Soak dry beans 24 hours before cooking to remove excess starches.

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss cubed butternut squash with a coating of olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, pepper and sage leaves.  Roast for 20 minutes, until softened.  (You can do this the night before or day-of.)

2.  In a Cuisinart or blender, pulverize onion, garlic, basil and 1 tablespoon + of olive oil.  When the onion reaches the consistency of a slightly-chunky, translucent chutney, stop blending.  In a large pot, pour onion mixture and heat on medium high until all water evaporates (approximately 5 minutes).

3.  Meanwhile, chop carrots and fennel.  (If you choose to forgo roasting the butternut squash, chop squash now.)  Add carrots and fennel (squash, optional) to pot when onions begin to turn brown.  If the bottom of the pot looks a little dry, add a few drips of olive oil or a splash of water. Saute until slightly-crisp, about 7-8 minutes.

4.  Add 4 cups of water, plum tomatoes and juice and 2 cups cooked garbanzo beans.  Add Parmesan rind and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  When carrots and fennel are al dente, add peas, roasted squash and a few handfuls of spinach or arugula to the pot and stir.  Add 1-2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, sea salt and pepper to taste.  Cook 1-2 minutes and remove from heat.  Let sit, preferably for 12+ hours, lid on.  Before serving, reheat and remove Parmesan cheese rind.  Garnish each bowl with a generous handful of fresh, grated Parmesan cheese.

Diet Notes: Gluten-free, nut-free, SCD-safe (see asterisk)

Tomato Soup with Two Fennel & Greens

April 26, 2010 § 3 Comments

Yesterday afternoon was the pits.  It lasted forever and was filled with doll-drum to-do’s like picking up dog mess and dragging giant, fallen palm fronds from one end of the house to the other.  Suffice it to say, around the dinner-hour, I was a grouch.  I opened up the fridge and freezer and momentarily debated dishing myself a bowl of soy milk ice cream + peanut butter (dinner of champions!).  But I was too grumpy for ice cream.  I hemmed and hawed and poked around in the back of the fridge.  Low and behold, I found two smallish heads of fennel that I’d purchased two weeks ago at the farmers’ market.  I could roast them Mollie-Katzen style, I thought, as I stared at them, side-by-side on the counter sending faint anise-scented puffs into the air.  But last night, roasting anything – fennel or otherwise – seemed too hands-off.  I find that one of the few fool-proof ways of staving off a rotten mood (or curing one that’s starting to plummet) is to fog up my glasses over a big, steaming pot.

Rolling through my mental recipe Rolodex, I then recalled a winning Molly Wizenberg recipe from her book, “A Homemade Life” – a terrific read, FYI, especially the googly-eyed parts where she meets her future husband, Brandon.  As I recalled her ingredient list – yellow onion, check!  plum tomatoes, check! – I grabbed my biggest pot.  An hour-and-a-half later, mood already improved, I sat down to a bowl of warm, tomato soup and a wedge of toasted sourdough bread shmeared with a pat of herbed butter, and guys, I felt like a million bucks.   My dad – lover of grilled cheese and tomato soup – claims this is his “favorite soup ever!”  I’ve tweaked Molly’s recipe a bit – I added greens, more herbs and pesto – but the gist is the same and the inspiration is all from her.

One final note about the recipe: The soup’s flavor improves with time.  If you can, make it a day in advance.  Alternatively, make it an hour-and-a-half before you’d like to eat – it’ll be ready in an hour and you can let it sit for the final half-hour to let the flavors meld.

Ingredients:
8 cups plum tomatoes (or two 28-oz cans, unsalted)*
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 medium-sized fennel
2-4 cups leafy greens (beet greens, spinach, kale, collard greens, etc.)
2 tablespoons each: fresh basil, oregano & parsley
sea salt, pepper to taste
1/2 to 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
olive oil
3-4 tablespoons pesto

*If following the SCD diet, use fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes from Italy, with only “tomatoes” on the label.

Methods:

1.  In a large pot, heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil on medium-high heat.  Cook onions with a pinch of sea salt until slightly wilted, about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, cut fennel into quarters and dice.  Add chopped fennel to onion along with roughly-chopped garlic.  Cook an additional 5-7 minutes until the fennel starts turning translucent.

2.  Break plum tomatoes into bite-sized pieces and add to pot with canned liquid.  Fill one of the containers with water and add to the pot.  Bring to a boil; lower to a simmer and cook for an additional 45 minutes with the lid off.

3.  When the broth looks thicker, the soup will be nearly done (and if you taste it, the tinned-tomato taste will be gone and it will be replaced by a full-bodied, slightly anise-flavored broth).  Add 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar.  Add between 1/2 – 3/4 tsp. sea salt and several shakes of pepper.  Taste the broth.  If necessary, add an additional 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar (that’s what I do).  Then, add leafy greens and cook for a few more minutes at a moderate simmer.  Stir in herbs.

4.  Remove from heat and, if time allows, let sit for 15-30 minutes with the lid on.  The flavors will develop and get richer and the soup will still be piping hot.  Alternatively, make the day before and reheat – the leftovers are even tastier!  Serve with a drizzle of fruity olive oil on top or a dollop of pesto and, if you have it, toasted wedges of sourdough bread and butter (herbed butter, with minced garlic, rosemary and oregano is killer!).

Diet Notes: Gluten-free, SCD-safe (see asterisk)

Simple Red Lentil Dal

January 16, 2010 § 1 Comment

I feel as though I’ve only just — like, in the past 3 weeks — discovered soup.  Granted, I grew up in the desert – with a 2-week winter & 50-week summer – and soup (save gazpacho) hasn’t sounded appealing.  At least not when you stack it up against cilantro + bean salads, year-round (in-season) crisp heaps of lettuce or room-temperature noodle salads speckled with off-the-vine tomatoes picked in (I’m not kidding) January.  But lately, I’ve been getting a real kick out of boiling beans and cutting the rinds off of parmesan cheese blocks to flavor a deep pot of broth.  These happy discoveries have coincidentally coincided with my complete loss of cold/cool endurance, such that I now wear a scarf permanently indoors (a balmy 66-degrees).

A few days ago I decided to make Dal.  Dal is an everyday, spicy, aromatic side dish made with seasonings, curry, onions and a legume.  It’s often eaten with a starch — like rice or bread — and dairy.  Dal comes from the Sanskrit word “to split” and refers to dozens of different types of dried split peas.  Last Wednesday, I dug out my red lentils from the depths of the pantry.  Thirty minutes later, I had a bubbling, creamy pot of thick, collapsed lentils — it looked a lot like split pea soup.  This Simple Dal is Mark Bittman inspired.  There are only a smattering of ingredients in the whole recipe; the spices (and salt) are key to the good flavor. I ate it plain, with a spoon, but it would be equally good paired with a starch, as it’s typically eaten.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon green tea oil or olive oil
1 medium yellow/white onion, chopped
1 cup red lentils, picked over*
1 teaspoon minced ginger (fresh)
1 tablespoon mustard seed
1-2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 whole cloves
salt, pepper to taste
1/3 cup cilantro, optional

*If following the specific carbohydrate diet, add lentils back into diet after one month of symptom free days.  Before preparing this dish, soak lentils for a full 24 hours to remove excess starch.

Methods:

1. In the bottom of a medium-sized pot, heat oil and onions until caramelized, about 10 minutes.  Once wilted, remove onions from heat and set aside to add-in later.

2. In the same pot, add red lentils and saute with ginger, mustard seed and garlic for just a minute, until garlic becomes fragrant.  Add cloves and enough water so that the lentils are covered by about 1″ of liquid.  Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Cook for approximately 25-30 minutes until the lentils collapse and loose shape.

3. Before serving, taste for salt and pepper.  Serve immediately with cilantro as an optional garnish.  This soup makes terrific leftovers, but the soup will thicken in the fridge.  When reheating, loosen with a bit of water.

Diet Notes: Gluten-free, vegan, nut-free, SCD-safe (see asterisk)

Minestrone (to kick off Twenty Ten!)

January 2, 2010 § 3 Comments

My family is divided when it comes to New Years’ Resolutions.  Some members of my family treat January 1st as if it were no different than October 4th and July 29th.  Other members of my family make resolutions pronto, and when they hear I haven’t made mine by January 4th, nag me to do so, ad nausea  – as if I’m running out of time?   I have mixed feelings about “resoluting” (doesn’t that sound more fun than “resolving”?).  For the past 17 years, New Years has arrived directly after a semester ends (often a brain-squeezing one at that) and the last thing I want to do is make another laundry list or Venn diagram.  That said, list or not, I do relish blank slates, fresh starts, new numbers and one more reason to pause, rewind, clean up, make food, goof-off with friends and look forward to something new.

Comic by Bill Watterson

And so, despite my recent resurface to the world after Thesis Season and graduation, I have made a hope for the new year.  In short, I’d like to move nice and slow and live a little bit lighter.  In the past half-dozen weeks, I’ve been moving faster than ever, subsisting on whole-milk yogurt, bread, apples, peanut butter and chocolate, and I didn’t have enough brain power to read the morning comics in the back of the paper.  Something’s gotta give, if you ask me.  That brings me to the kitchen: I’d love to soak up my afternoons fogging up my glasses over a big pot on the stove; I’d like to stir away my evenings; I’d like to smell my breakfasts.

I’m jump-starting this new year with a wholesome bowl of minestrone soup. I made this last week, inspired by the latest issue of Cooks’ Illustrated Magazine, and polished off the whole pot with my family.  This week I plan to whip out my heavy pot and simmer-away early January.

This soup is hearty, healthy and while you do have to hang around the house for a little while (unless you have a crock-pot), it hardly requires brain power.  There are a modest number of ingredients in the recipe, but don’t let that deter you.  Half of the ingredients are the standard soup aromatics – celery, onion, carrot.  The more unusual ingredients include 1.5 cups of V8 Juice and a Parmesan cheese rind.  If you don’t have a Parmesan rind, cut up a 1″ x 1″ block of Parmesan cheese and let it melt into the broth.  Parmesan is an essential ingredient.  This soup is strictly vegetarian – no chicken stock, here – and the flavors are extraordinarily rich, thanks to the cheese (and red pepper flakes).

Wishing you a healthy new year with hearty appetites and plenty of sweet teeth.

Ingredients (serves 8-10):
1 cup dried beans (I prefer heirloom Colorado River beans or Christmas Lima’s)

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 large onion, diced
2 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, to taste
10+ cups of water
1 Parmesan cheese rid
1.5 cups V8 Juice (low-sodium is fine)

1/2 cup chopped basil

Methods:

If you prefer to crock-pot this recipe, be sure to bring dried beans to a boil first, before adding them to the crock pot.  Once beans have been brought to a boil, then combine all ingredients in the ceramic basin and let the crock do the work. To cook soup over the stove, follow the instructions below:

1. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of sea salt into 8 cups of cold water.  Add beans and soak at room temperature overnight.

2. The following day, drain beans and rinse several times.  Heat oil in the bottom of a large pot or Dutch oven and cook onions, celery and carrot until softened and slightly golden and caramelized, about 7 minutes.  Stir in cabbage and garlic for 1 minute, until aromatic.  Transfer the vegetables to a dish and set aside.

3.  In the same pot, add soaked and rinsed beans, water and Parmesan rind to the now-empty pot and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat and vigorously simmer, stirring every once in a while, until the beans are fully cooked. (Depending on your dried bean this could take any where from 45 minutes to 2.5 hours.)

4.  When beans are tender, add V8 juice to the pot and add reserved vegetables.  Cook until vegetables are tender, about 15-20 minutes.  Discard Parmesan rind.  Just before serving, stir in chopped basil and serve with grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Diet Notes: Gluten-free, Nut-free

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