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Tuesday
Jul192011

ROASTED TOMATO SOUP

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I find it funny that when you fall in love with someone, and even more so when you marry/live with them, you kind of morph into an unintentional, uni-person at times. The things you eat blend, the lingo or nicknames you have for things become everyday vernacular, you want what they want (for their sake), and circumstances that make them sad, cut you straight to the bone.

I'm the morning person who now consistently finds herself staying up late, and I swear to you we show up places in coordinating outfits that we don't notice until someone teases us. I sound like I've lost all sense of myself, but for serious, I really think it's crazy how much you're influenced when you don't even know it.

I've tried to make a point this year of spending time with people that are positive and encouraging to be around and trying to be the kind of person that someone wouldn't mind being influenced by. That's harder than you'd think, would you believe my language has gotten worse despite said intentions?

I started thinking about this, because both Hugh and I don't care for raw tomatoes. We both love salsa, marinara and roasted tomato soup, but please don't put tomatoes in my salad. But it wasn't always this way, I grew up on raw tomatoes, lots of them, the first half of my life, a 'salad' was routinely tomatoes and cucumbers with Hidden Valley Ranch dressing (Mom! I'm so grateful and I love you). We grow up and somehow the way we think or what we eat and the company we keep changes, and I find it pretty phenomenal that we refine ourselves little by little, most of the time without even realizing it. It happens right under our noses. So here I am, some version of myself but mostly a composition of people who have loved and influenced me in one way or another.

So this soup, while easy in preparation and simple in ingredients, is only as good as the tomatoes you use (pay attention, did you catch the life metaphor there?). If you have a local farmer's market, roadside farm stand or grow your own, this is the time to use them. Regardless of them being roasted, the integrity of the tomato stands out. I thought it would be good with some homemade pesto croutons, or some smoked paprika if you want a bit of heat, but it's just as comforting with a slice of crusty bread.undefined

ROASTED TOMATO SOUP // Serve 2 as an entree, 4 as a side

Because it's summer and I prefer things lighter, I honestly did not add any cream. This is your choice. It will take an edge off of the acidity, but I thought a little cheese crostini balanced it out just fine.

1 1/4 lb. Ripe Tomatoes (about 4 Large Tomatoes)
1/2 Medium Yellow Onion
3 Garlic Cloves
1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp. Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
1 Tbsp. Chopped Parsley
1 1/2 Cups Low Sodium Vegetable or Chicken Broth
1 Tbsp. Organic Tomato Paste
1/4 Cup Heavy Cream or Half and Half, optional
Fresh Oregano + Basil for garnish

Fresh Grainy Bread
Mozzarella Cheeseundefined

1. Preheat the oven to 350'. Cut the tomatoes and the half of an onion into wedges. Use your finger to push out some of the seedy parts of the tomatoes, but this is not a huge deal, just get out the big seedy parts, a bit intact is fine. Spread them on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle the salt, a generous amount of pepper, the chopped parsley and gently toss it with your hands. Tuck the garlic cloves somewhere in a tomato, so they don't burn. Roast on the middle rack for 30-40 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down and reduced to about half their size. Remove and cool slightly.
2. Warm the broth and stir in the tomato paste to dissolve. Add the all of the ingredients from the roasting pan into the broth and let it gently simmer for 5-10 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the bowl, or with a food processor or blender. The soup should be smooth, with some texture. If you don't like any texture at all, you could run it through a fine mesh sieve. Return it back to the pot, and add the cream to taste, if using. Taste for salt and pepper.
3. Serve with some toasted bread, or broil a few slices with a piece of mozzarella on top. Garnish with fresh chopped basil and oregano.undefined

Thursday
Jul072011

GREEN BEAN + BLACK QUINOA SALAD

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I made a post out of what I had on hand! Congratulations, self! I have wandered from my grocery budget lately. I can pinch pennies on most things, but get me to a market and I feel like I am spending monopoly money. The same girl who holds on to gift cards that have under a fifty cent value... yeah. Lately, I've been coming home with pretty bottles of red wine from Trader Joes and the things is, I prefer white wines, I don't even like red wine! They're inexpensive bottles, but that's beside the point. So, of course I cried out of guilt, punished myself by drinking the red wine I don't even like (this is a confusing punishment, I'm aware), and am pretty sure I snapped out of the grocery addiction.

I tend to become a bit unmotivated when the weather warms up, and I'm certainly not turning on our ancient oven which heats up the entire upstairs. I have loads of green beans from my CSA basket, and admit they're not really a vegetable I would purchase otherwise. The green bean isn't known for being the most versatile ingredient - sort of akwardly lanky and reminiscent of your grandma's, creamy holiday casserole. But as a hater of waste and in my renewed frugalness, I dressed them up enough to be a dish I would bring to a backyard dinner party, or something I would take a bite of while passing the fridge for a snack.

The green beans stay crisp from a quick blanch, and the quinoa adds a bit of protein to fill you up. If you like your salads to be a little easier to eat, simply chop up those lanky beans to bite size pieces. Ignore the oven, have a tasty salad and it's the weekend again, party people.undefined

GREEN BEAN + BLACK QUINOA SALAD // Serves 4-6
I made my dressing with a lemon infused olive oil because I had some and I am obsessed with it, but it is not necessary. Use that if you have it, and if you'd like a bit of citrus, add a bit of fresh lemon zest when tossing everything together.

// Dressing //
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Tbsp. White Balsamic
2 tsp. Agave Nectar / Honey
1 Clove Garlic
Handful of Basil Leaves
Pinch of Salt + Pepper

1/2 Cup Quinoa (black or red is pretty, but any color works)
1 lb. Green Beans, ends trimmed
2 Scallions/Green Onions
1/2 Cup Hazelnuts, toasted and skins removed, roughly choppedundefined

1. In a blender or food processor, whirl all of the dressing ingredients together. Taste for salt and pepper and set aside in the fridge.
2. Bring 1 Cup water to a boil and add the quinoa, turn the heat down to a simmer, cover and cook for about 20 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Transfer to a large mixing bowl to cool.
3. Blanch or steam the green beans until just barely softened. Drain well. Add the drained green beans to the cooled quinoa. Thinly slice the scallions and add them, and half of the chopped hazelnuts to the bowl and toss with desired amount of the dressing. Finish the salad with a few grinds of fresh black pepper and the rest of the hazelnuts. Serve at room temperature or chill in the fridge. The leftovers hold up great. undefined

Thursday
Jun232011

CURRY SPICED POMMES FRITES + CUCUMBER DIP

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Currently Loving:

Adele's newest album. If I wasn't pursuing a career in food, I would try out to be her back up singer. I'm already practicing in the car as it's always smart to have a plan B.

Perusing recipe ideas on Pinterest (Introduction to this organizational wonderland from my sister in law whose offspring can also fall on this list).

Positive, encouraging emails from you party people. I appreciate letters/emails so so much.

Dried beans from Rancho Gordo. Most specifically the Runner Cannellini Beans. Big, creamy, pillowy white beans. Never thought I would be so particular that I would be mail ordering beans, but, here I am.

The last Meyer lemons from my parents tree. Homemade Apricot Jam. Puffins Cereal. Lessons learned. Love.

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Because I want to offer more meal ideas, I will point you over to Lovely Morning for these fabulous looking veggie burgers. That tasty recipe and some of these baked fries and you've got yourself a filling and tasty dinner!

CURRY SPICED POMMES FRITES + CUCUMBER DIP // Serves 2
Inspired by Veggie Belly via Pinterest

Because I know you are thinking what I thought, "will this work with yams/sweet potatoes?". I tried it. They have a higher water content than a russet, so they don't quite crisp up like russet. I still ate them, of course, but comparatively, they need a few minutes longer in the oven and were still a tad soggy in texture. Tasty? Yes. Crispy pomme frite? No.

1 Russet Potato (about 10 oz.)
1 Tbsp. Melted Coconut Oil or Ghee
Heaping 1/2 tsp. Curry Powder
Few generous pinches of Salt

Cucumber Dip
1/3 Cup Seeded and Finely Diced Cucumber
1 Tbsp. Chopped Mint
1 Tbsp. Chopped Parsley
1/2 Cup Whole or Lowfat Greek Yogurt
Salt + Pepper to tasteundefinedundefined

Preheat the oven to 415'

1. Using a mandoline or sharp knife, cut the potato into 1/8'' slices, lengthwise. Pat them dry with a dishtowel or paper towel. Layer up like-size pieces, and cut them into small matchsticks, more narrow than a ballpoint pen.
2. Toss the matchsticks gently with the curry mix. Matchsticks should be coated, but not soggy. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and put lay as many as you can in a single layer, this will have to be done in shifts. Sprinkle with a few pinches of salt. Bake them on the middle rack for 10-14 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Watch them closely, you want them to have some brown spots, but not turn to charcoal. Mine were super thin, so they got a bit charred.
3. While they bake, mix the diced cucumber, both herbs, yogurt and a pinch of salt and pepper together and set aside.
4. Eat them hot from the oven with the yogurt dip. You can use the same parchment for the second round, or prepare a second baking tray and put it in as soon as the first batch is done. Repeat process of spreading them out in a single layer with a few pinches of salt on top.undefined

Thursday
Jun092011

DATE + PECAN SCONES

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I have this almond strawberry shortcake recipe for the book that I have now made four times. I love this cake, but honestly I would be ok if I didn't have it again for awhile. Not to mention there are two of us in this lovely apartment, and I have a paranoia about food going to waste, so even while giving some away to friends, guess who has been eating a lot of cake? Yea. So I went to Zumba last night, trying to make up for cake... and scones. Have you been? It's so ridiculous that I keep going back. It's a workout of embarassing salsa-type moves that make me feel like I am in some terrible latin children's musical. The high school girls in their booty shorts and the older women who wear jingly belly dancing belts, it's entertaining, but still liberating in its own way. I think it's because there is no way you could take yourself seriously in that hour, and I like being forced into that state of mind.

I have unsuccessfully made scones a few times, but this recipe is my sweet victory for the previous batches which either spread flat or came out tasteless. Their edges may be imperfect and they don't have the lighteness that a bakery scone using all white flour yields, but I wouldn't change it. The spelt and oat bran give a warmth and heartiness to the scone, while it still welcomes a thin shmear of creme fraiche or butter. The trick to a good scone is to use your hands, not tools, so you can be gentle as possible as to not overmix and work quickly so the batter stays cold. I may not be a master yet, but these are pretty delicious. undefined

DATE + PECAN SCONES // Makes 8
Ratios adapted from Maria Speck's Ancient Grains for Modern Meals

1 Cup White Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 Cup Spelt Flour
1/2 Cup Oat Bran
1/4 Cup Natural Cane Sugar
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
1/2 tsp. Freshly Ground Nutmeg
2 1/4 tsp. Baking Powder
1/3 Cup Chopped Pecans
5 Medjool Dates, cut in small pieces
6 Tbsp. Butter, cold
1 Egg
3/4 Cup Heavy Cream
1 Tbsp. Orange Zest

Turbinado Sugar for Garnishundefinedundefined

1. Preheat the oven to 400'. Mix both flours, oat bran, sugar, salt, nutmeg and baking powder together. Mix in the chopped pecans and dates.
2. Working quickly, cut the butter into chunks and work it in to the flour mix with your fingers until you get small pebbles.
3. Whisk the egg, cream and zest together and add about 3/4 of the cream to the flour and incorporate with as few stirs as possible. Add more of the cream as needed until you get a shaggy dough that just holds itself together. Pat it together and let it sit in the fridge for 20 minutes to chill.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough in two and make two disks that are about 1.5'' thick. If you just want to cook four scones for now, wrap the other disk tightly in saran wrap and keep it in the fridge. Cut the disk in half, then in half the other way so you get four triangles. Place them on the parchment. Brush a bit of the remaining cream on top and sprinkle a few pinches of turbinado sugar on top. Bake on the middle rack for 16-18 minutes, rotating the baking tray half way through cooking. Remove to cool. Serve just above room temperature with a bit of creme fraiche.undefined

Friday
Jun032011

RAINIER CHERRY MUDDLER

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Fresh produce makes me giddy. I worked at the organic farm on campus while in college up in San Luis Obispo, and I mark that as the time that I both taught myself to cook, and started to give a second thought to what I was putting in my body. Our wage came in the form of a CSA basket, and every week there was some new type of sprout or a unique type of mushroom. It's fascinating to me - the variety, nutrition and flavors of produce. That fascination can bring a fury of emotions when I read articles on food politics or watch things like Food Inc. or Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution. You matter. What you eat matters. Believe it.

The combination here is a result of last weekends farmers market visit. I use the lemon thyme from my herb garden all the time, but this lemon basil we came across was the most fragrant thing I've ever smelled - only soft notes of traditional basil, more of a lemongrass scent. Hugh keeps commenting on the amazing smell, and he usually saves those compliments for bacon, caramelized onions or double chocolate chip banana bread.

I also happen to be collecting rainier cherries, grabbing them at every trip to the market, as their season is short. I put these two great finds together in a wheat berry salad with a bit of gorgonzola, but this cocktail is the stunning outcome I wanted to share with you. So pretty! I love pretty drinks. Especially pretty drinks that aren't super sweet, full of simple syrup and soda (anyone? memories of their 21st birthday? maybe something with a marschino cherry? or for my sister, 'dirty bananas,' family vacation in Jamaica circa 2008?). All to say, this is just clean and light and springy and I hope you find a reason to treat yourself to a pretty cocktail. Cheers.undefined

RAINIER CHERRY MUDDLER // Makes 1 Cocktail
Cherries have been on the dirty dozen list, as they are challenging to grow without pesticides. Purchase organic if you can, or be sure to clean them well.
The end result here has some fibrous pieces and bits of turbinado in the glass, it adds character. You could pour it through a mesh strainer if that bothers you.

8 Rainier Cherries
Few Leaves of Lemon Basil
2 tsp. Turbinado Sugar*
2 oz. Vodka
Crushed Ice
Sparkling Waterundefined

1. Pit and halve the cherries. Put the cherries, lemon basil and turbinado in a glass (or pitcher if making more than one), and muddle it with a muddling tool, or the bottom of a wooden spoon. Get aggressive, you need to get as much juice out of the cherries as possible.
2. Fill a glass with 3/4 full with crushed ice. Add the vodka and muddled cherry mix and fill the rest of the glass with sparkling water.
* I find that rainier cherries aren't quite as sweet as bing cherries, making this drink quite light. If you like a little more tart or sweet flavor, add a splash of cherry juice to the glass.undefined