Tomato Soup with spinach and mozzarella 

It is finally getting soup weather around here, after a very warm Christmas. This is a new recipe to me, but I love tomato bisque. And to me this qualifies – because you blend everything up with an immersion blender. One of my favorite tools that I got for like $15 at an Ace Hardware in Chapel Hill — how strange is that? Yep kind of strange for sure, but I do get a good bit of use out of it.D&D_1140

1 – 28 ozs can whole San Marzano tomatoes
3 cups vegetable stock
2 Tbs olive oil
8 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 ribs of celery, peeled and diced
1 large shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large bay leaf, from Turkey if possible, just saying
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Balsamic vinegar

In a stock pot (or just a big pot), heat olive oil, add the chopped shallots and celery, sauté until translucent. Add sun-dried tomatoes and bay leaf and sauté for 3 – 4 minutes. With the pan moderately hot add just a bit of water, a Tbs or so, and steam the vegetables with the lid on the pot for a minute or two. Then add garlic and sauté until soft – do not let garlic get too far past barely golden. Add the salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano, and sauté a minute more. Maybe a smidgen of tomato paste here would not go amiss. Just let it get some caramelization. Always a good thing.

Add the tomatoes, and crush with spoon or spatula. Cook down for a few minutes on medium.  Add vegetable stock and cook for a few minutes more. Reduce to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or more if you have more time – which you will have if you are simultaneous baking cookies. Remove bay leaf – key point. Purée with an immersion blender. Add 2 – 3 tsp balsamic vinegar, stir in and adjust salt and pepper, if necessary. At this point you can refrigerate the soup for later. For me, tomato soup is like spaghetti sauce, it is always better after a couple of days. Make it on a Sunday, eat it on a Tuesday – yeah – not having to cook after work – woo hoo!

Toppings, etc

3 cups fresh spinach, washed, and dried
1 small shallot, minced
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar*
Fresh mozzarella cut into small pieces

Sauté shallots and garlic in a Tbs of olive oil. Add spinach and toss to wilt. Season with salt and pepper. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar.  Add the spinach mix and mozzarella to the soup.

There will be a next time for my modified version of this recipe because for the soup, this is all pantry food – one of my favorite things – make dinner out of something I have just sitting around. My previous favorite tomato soup was good, but I had to get tomato juice – which I NEVER have on hand. This seems to fix that issue.

* I think next time I will make a balsamic vinegar syrup. I have had this on soups in one of my favorite restaurants (yes, that’s you Jaco’s) and I’ve seen that is dead simple to make. But in this case I think it will lend a depth to the soup.

I won’t rant about Jaco’s too much, but if your restaurant can make excellent soup – which Jaco’s does – and that means you’ve gotten certain things right. I do need to tell you all more about this place. It is excellent.
Original source: yes-more please.com/2014/03/caprese-tomato-spinach-soup/ – Although I did make  a few modifications – that seems to be a recurring theme.

Spinach Dip

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Spinach Dip with Hawaiian Rolls

I have had this recipe, dare I say it, since the late 1980’s. And now I feel pretty much -ancient – yep. I am sure there are better variations, but this is the one the Boy likes, and to be honest, I really like it too. Although I don’t think the Boy understands that there are water chestnuts. He says he does not like them – funny – will not tell him for a few more years. This is a variation from my friend Marie in my first real job. We worked in a distribution company and it was a great job and I learned so much about working in the real world. My French Silk Pie recipe also comes from this time period. And a few other recipes that I will have to bring out of the 80’s just for fun. Or just to make me feel, um … old.

I am sure in the 80’s I did not use King’s Hawaiian rolls, but now they are a requirement. Thanks Boy – and that was an excellent move on your part.

8 ozs cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 packages frozen chopped spinach, drained and all the liquid pressed out
1 package Knorr vegetable soup mix
1 can water chestnuts, minced
King’s Hawaiian Rolls

Mix together cream cheese and mayonnaise. Add vegetable soup mix, and mix to combine thoroughly. No, I mean it. This is important.
Add spinach and water chestnuts and mix. Refrigerate overnight.
Let sit at room temperature for about an hour or so. Serve with Hawaiian rolls. Sliced horizontally and then vertically, so you get 4 pieces of Hawaiian bread from each roll.  Not sure how this worked out, but it is a pretty good combination
I make this for the Boy. Every Thanksgiving.

I have, pretty much, had it.

This is a total rant – and I do realize that. I am so done with it. I have HAD it with the rolled up refrigerator pie dough. It is always a hassle, but there must be a better way than this. It doesn’t want to unroll and that’s just the beginning of the problems. It’s supposed to be a convenience, but it never really is. It’s always a pain, and it totally shrinks when it’s blind baked. There must be a better way

Doesn’t matter if you follow directions, which I do (mostly).  It splits and is too thin in places. I spend more time fixing it – I might as well make it myself. It is just not convenient – which is what it is supposed to be.

What I would like to find is a press-in-the-pan pie crust that would be sturdy enough for quiche. I refuse to do this again.

New quest  – decent quiche crust. Somewhere in the back of my head, I’ve seen a press-in-the-pan crust on America’s Test Kitchen or Cook’s Country, but I might be delusional.  Or what the hell, maybe forgo the crust all together and bake it without one – like a frittata. It just might work – sounds like project food (food that is a project) to me.

Spinach & Mushroom Quiche

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Spinach and Mushroom Quiche

This recipe is so old and so altered, but it is from a tiny little tea room I worked at when I was young and dumb. I like because it does not have, in my opinion, too many eggs. I like a denser quiche. But the flavors of this are truly worth the work, not that there is much work involved really.

You can substitute frozen spinach that is thawed or frozen broccoli that is thawed – both have to be well drained.

This is great with a side salad and some homemade buttermilk ranch dressing. I happen to like a little ranch on the quiche as a counter point. I will be posting my version of buttermilk ranch soon. Making it at home is just beyond belief, but I’m not expecting really great photos — I mean, buttermilk, mayo and herbs. Sigh, more blah colors. Can’t wait for spring to truly kick in and get some colorful veggies on the plate.

Makes 2 quiches (is that the plural?)

2 5 ozs. bags of fresh spinach
16 ozs mushrooms, white or cremini, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 Tbs. Balsamic vinegar
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 14 oz can evaporated milk
16 ozs mozzarella cheese, grated
crust for 2 nine inch pie pans*

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sauté onion in a couple Tbs. of olive oil until soft. Add sliced mushrooms and cook until most of the liquid evaporates. Add Balsamic and let it reduce too. Top with washed and mostly dried spinach. Turn into pan to wilt down. And again let most liquid evaporate. It’s important to get this as dry as possible. Let cool in pan to room temperature.

In a large-ish bowl, mix together beaten eggs, evaporated milk and mozzarella. Add cooled spinach and mushroom mixture and combine well.

Blind bake pie crusts* I prefer glass pie plates with pie weights – for 12 or so minutes and return to oven without weights for about 3 more minutes. When the crusts are slightly cooler, divide the spinach mixture between them.

Bake quiche for 30 – 35 minutes or until lightly brown on top.

* rant forthcoming